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Market Report :
Bill Cunningham once
observed, "Fashion is the armor to survive the reality of everyday life" and
indeed, some of the best designs for fall winter 2014 could easily do double
duty as protective armor, shielding us against the hostile weather (and it
certainly was the worst winter in memory), the hostile environment, and the
hostile world. Survival clothes for modern times. This was exemplified by
Alexander Wang with his eponymous collection shown at the Brooklyn Navy Yards
during MBFW. It was hard not to notice that his favored footwear of choice were
boots, many of which were flat and fiercely over the knee. He even introduced a
boot that from the back, bared the leg and resembled a pump. These boots ARE
made for walking, and pounding the pavement.
Can we talk? (about boots). There is good news if you, like many others, cannot live without them. Notwithstanding the fact that as I am writing this, I cannot wait to get out of them and into lighter, more spring like shoes, there is no question that boots (which showed up in every length, from ankle to above the knee) were the stars of the 2014 collections (along with furs, but more on that later). For his well-received freshman collection for Louis Vuitton, Nicolas Guesquiere photo: 1 showed a variety of boots with his abbreviated a line coats and skirts, and while not necessarily flat, they featured sculpted heels that were moderately low heeled. And the best news is that the long neglected classic, the tall riding boot, has really never looked better. At Saint Laurent, Hedi Slimane made quite a statement with them (along with flat often jeweled Mary Janes), even studding, gilding, and embellishing several 2. Low heeled, tall boots were also standouts at Gucci, where they came in supple tan and beige leather, python, leopard, and featured the house's iconic horse bit hardware. So chic. 3
Not only have delicate pointy toed high heeled stiletto pumps almost all but disappeared from recent runways, many show goers have traded them in for the more grounded athletic inspired trainers, ballerinas, Birkenstocks, sensible flat or kitten heeled shoes, rubber soled fur lined boots (many of which resemble moon boots or mukluks, and are often times unapologetically clunky to say the least), and boots of every possible description. Even Anna Wintour 4 showed up on the last day of MBFW in flat (yikes) boots and a comfy cozy long roomy pale fur coat. At this point, one's eye has adjusted so well to this new aesthetic, even Uggs don't look so 'ugly' any more. Being comfy and cozy is the new black.
Time was, you wouldn't be caught dead wearing flats, running shoes, sneakers, or anything with a crepe sole that in any way resembled something orthopedic (quelle horror!), especially if you were sitting front row center. Unless you had a foot injury; and not even then! Well, all that has apparently changed, as evidenced by recent runways, and the legions of high profile editors and social fixtures who attended the shows in New York, London, Milan, and Paris. Giovanna Battaglia paired pancake flats with narrow cuffed jeans and a glamorous white cape in Milan; and scores of chic show goers were spotted wearing (gulp!) sneakers with their finery. 5
Many highly influential designers showed only flats or low heels on their runways, and many of them were unapologetically heavy (Phoebe Philo's idea of a high heel, is a shoe on a thick platform). Of course, with fashion being so fickle, I can bet this will completely change next season and she along with almost everyone else, will show the highest heels possible. Karl Lagerfeld 6 who turned his Chanel venue into a common 'supermarket', showed nothing but running shoes or variations on a flat lace up sneaker boot, for both day and night. And he didn't hide them. Quite the opposite: they were quite out there in creative fabric and color combinations, blending in with the house's signature tweeds. Rick Owens's second skin over the knee boots also seemed like a sneaker hybrid with their contrasting rubber soles.
There was a time when legions of women were seen on the streets or on the subways, changing out of their comfy, practical running shoes into their unwieldy high heels before heading to the office or to a party. Not only is that about to change, you might actually see the opposite happening!)
Case in point, one year ago, I noticed petite social fixture and fashion maverick 7 Julie Macklowe leaving the Tents at Lincoln Center in heels so high she was almost unable to walk. But recently, she has been loving her cool gilded high top sneakers, which she wore at Dennis Basso's show last month. She was subsequently photographed by Bill Cunningham for his Evening Hours portfolio on the heels of MBFW, and he also ran a picture of her wearing the same sneakers with an evening dress months before. While I don't think Anna Wintour will be accessorizing her gown with high tops for the upcoming Costume Institute Ball (LOL), nor do I think you will see them at White House State dinners or at Buckingham Palace, their ubiquitous use points to a happily changing aesthetic. No longer is looking fabulously chic, or being considered well dressed, or 'dressed up', predicated on how high your heels are. One need not suffer for beauty of fashion. Of course, if you want to suffer, that's your prerogative too, and there are plenty of designs that will enable you to do so LOL. Designers can only offer and propose and it's up to the customer to decide. The really smart chic ones (like Ines de la Fressange) are not slaves to fashion and don't get on the trend bandwagon, but rather wear what suits them. And guess what? They look better than everyone else.
Once again, the well-dressed show attendees, who are obviously two steps ahead of the designers, perfectly mirrored what was shown on the recent runways. For fall 2014, it was hard not to notice an underlying easy relaxed and sporty attitude; an emphasis on outsized, sturdy, cocoon like shapes; touchy feely tactile fabrics from nubby tweeds to shaggy mohair (not to mention all the many examples of brilliant fabric technology); furs in every incarnation imaginable (from sheared and flat to wildly long haired), including some of the best shearlings I've seen; outstanding coats; stellar knitwear (often head to toe); and a palpable tomboy chic in terms of fabrics and silhouettes.
But happily, fashion is never about just one thing (one length, one silhouette, one proportion, one mood, one color story, etc.). There's a flip side to every coin, it's all about options, and each year, the choices seem more dizzying and more extreme. Anything goes and there is truly something for everyone.
As for color: there was head to toe white and head to toe black. Even die hard black devotees might be tempted to dip into the other colors of the spectrum because the offerings were so yummy this time around, and quite frankly, this season, wearing all black might even look lazy. Perhaps the most surprising was the wholehearted embrace of pastels: MBFW almost resembled an early Easter Parade with all the women in their softly hued coats. While I've never really been a pastel person, the recent runways were proof that in the right hands, anything can look good, as they did at Marc Jacobs, 3.1 Phillip Lim, Miu Miu, Gucci, and Ralph Lauren to name a few. 8
There were jarring brights and pleasing neutrals (flesh tones, nude, and especially camel, ruled and in the case of the latter three, layering them and mixing fabrics, can be quite effective). 9 And of course, where there's camel there's leopard (as Carrie Donovan pointed out: "Leopard is like camel, only better"). There was plenty of that as well, whether your like your leopard traditional or recolored in graphic black and white.
There was very long, very short, and everything in between. There were puddle dipping wide cuffed trousers 10, pants that were cropped (wide or lean), and Bermuda's 11. There was the almost preposterously voluminous, and there was fitted to the nth degree. There were trenches both plain 12 and fancy 13. (The same can be said about shearlings). Do you want a traditional fisherman knit sweater in thick luxurious ivory cashmere 14, or does the idea of a fisherman jacket in taxi cab yellow, made of latex coated wool, appeal to you? 15
Do you like your furs natural 16 or just about as artificial as can be? 17 Are you going for a look that is country bumpkin 18 or undeniably urbane? 19 Are you a fan of understated good taste 20 or do you like periodic flashes of campy bad taste 21? Do you prefer to ignore seasons 22, or do you love dressing for Siberia? 23
For evening, would you rather don a natty tuxedo, a perfect little black dress, an ethereal gown, or a hand beaded sweater and pants in a sculptural shape? 24 Guess what? You will no doubt find what you're looking for. Unless of course, you're on a tight budget, because unfortunately the best pieces, and all those leathers and furs, will undoubtedly be costly.
That said, there's good news if you don't really want to buy anything new this season, or you simply want to spend as little as possible. Based on recent runways, there are ways to get around that too, and sometimes it's just as easy as a styling trick.