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Spring/Summer 2017 RTW Collections

What’s Modern Now
- Marilyn Kirschner

Mixed up clothes for a crazy mixed up world
All Photos: Vogue.com

Just as Paris Fashion Week was winding down, I leafed through the October issue of Town & Country which had an opening section called “notable opening lines and cover illustrations from the magazine’s 170-year history”. The one that immediately caught my eye, dating back to September 1966 (“La Gossip around Europe”), read, “Sometimes at the end of the European collection, three solid weeks of fashion, I can’t help asking myself…do I really like clothes?” This was attributed to the late Eugenia Sheppard, considered to be the most influential fashion arbiter of the 50’s and 60’s and the late Joe Eula, the prominent fashion illustrator in the 60’s and 70’s.

Well, here we are 50 years later and I am nodding in knowing agreement. By the way, I shared an office with Joe in the early 70’s when I was a young fashion editor at Harper’s Bazaar and he was a contributing editor. He had a habit of running through the hallways exclaiming, “I’m b to d with f”, “I’m b to d with f” which was shorthand for, “I’m bored to death with fashion!” That never failed to make me laugh back in the day, but as someone who has covered the fashion arena for over 40 years, I can truly say it’s no joke and I am increasingly sharing those same sentiments. And while much that was presented over this past month falls into the category of banal, common and ordinary, thankfully, there were enough high moments in New York, London, Milan, and Paris to keep boredom and bay and resuscitate the season.

Maison Martin Margiela

There was certainly nothing banal or common about the way Miuccia Prada, Abe Chitose for Sacai, Kym Ellery for Ellery, and John Galliano for Maison Margiela, took classic wardrobe staples and made the familiar unfamiliar by showing them in a new way: mixing them, twisting them, turning them around, recoloring them, playing with proportion, etc. I guess they all agree with the old adage, “familiarity breeds contempt”.

There was nothing at all ordinary about Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen’s exquisite couture like handwork (which was applied to some of the most spectacularly dreamlike dresses this season) and her impeccable tailoring spiked with decorative touches of punk; Thom Browne’s inspired, creative, colorful trompe l’oeil romp (or his fabulous stage set for that matter); Joseph Font for Delpozo’s one of a kind, uniquely art inspired sculptural and architectural constructions; Proenza Schouler’s bold and graphic tribalism; Alessandro Michele’s fairytale like eclecticism for Gucci; Consuelo Castiglioni for Marni’s sturdy, sculptural, architectural outerwear with practical outsize pockets which recall the late great pioneer, Bonnie Cashin; Junya Watabane’s avant-garde, highly conceptual take on streetwear (which he has been doing long before it has become almost mainstream I might add).


Demna Gvasalia added a decidedly fetishist twist to his signature strong shouldered oversized streetwear for Balenciaga which was often shown in mouthwatering color combinations and accessorized with high heeled second skin latex over the knee boots and enormous, suitcase sized bags. Rei Kawakubo showed 17 enormous sculptural ensembles for Comme des Garcons: the sort that have apparently (though not confirmed yet) landed her a one woman show at the upcoming Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute this spring (the first time in 30 years a show is dedicated to a living designer). Dries Van Noten and Celine’s Phoebe Philo went for off the cuff, instinctual, spontaneous put togethers that looked right on. The Sonia Rykiel show, the first since the legendary designer’s passing, could not have been a more emotional, and fitting tribute.

Fenty Puma

I couldn’t help but smile looking at RiRi’s Fenty X Puma highly visual Parisian delight . This girl can not only sing; she has an innate knack for fashion AND the theatrical and the show was filled with just the sort of streetwise, sporty, pieces (counterbalanced with the ornate) that she might wear when not sporting Chanel, Balenciaga, Vetements, etc. Speaking of smiling, the gals on Stella McCartney’s runway could not have looked more joyful, comfortable, and confident in their slightly oversized yet perfectly tailored jackets and paper bag pants. She literally put the ‘fun’ back in fashion.

And seriously, what’s not to like about a show that pairs two iconic models Lauren Hutton and Gigi Haddad on the runway? Tomas Meier did just that on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of Bottega Veneta, a house that prizes itself on their low keyed approach to superb craftsmanship and luxurious fabrication. How could you forget their iconic ad campaign: “When Your Own Initials Are Enough?”

Saint Laurent

And then there was the anticipation surrounding the high profile debuts at the helm of iconic French labels. Hedi Slimane might have taken the ‘Yves’ out of YSL (both literally and figuratively with his insertion of grunge into the equation), but Anthony Vaccarello put it back in with a sexy, leggy, body conscious, pared down, slick, ode to the YSL of the 80’s. It looked very Anthony and very Yves and was rendered almost entirely in black (leather, patent) with touches of gold lame and faded blue denim. And of course, there were plenty of tuxedos.


Bouchra Jarrar offered up plenty of the chic signatures (great tailoring, fabulous jackets and pants, etc.) that have garnered her loyal fans and followers while taking over the helm at Lanvin, a house founded by a woman in 1889 (talk about “woman to woman”).


I was not on the ‘fence’ about former Valentino co designer Maria Grazia Chiuri’s use of taut quilted fencer’s jackets or the unapologetically sporty approach she took in her new role as creative director of Dior, (which is a big deal considering that she’s the first woman in 70 years to hold that position). Making her own statement about feminism, she focused on a minimal palette of black and white, to create a collection that looked fresh, wearable, of the moment and utterly modern. While she emphasized daywear, her former Valentino co designer, Pierpaolo Piccioli, in his first solo outing for the label, primarily zeroed in on long, flowing, romantic, dreamy eveningwear with a little help from several of his friends (which included British legend Zandra Rhodes who designed the prints).


In looking back at the spring summer 2017 collections, what really struck me was the dizzying variety in what was presented and how it was presented. The shows were held in, among other things, intimate showrooms, iconic art museums, and grand hotel rooms and were staged both inside and out (the drama at night with the help of fabulous lighting is hard to beat, as exemplified by Givenchy’s Riccardo Tisci). Backdrops and settings were equally important in telling a designer’s story. Thom Browne is known for his movie set worthy stage sets and did not disappoint this time around, and neither did Dries Van Noten with the glorious frozen floral installments that lined the runway (and eventually melted into puddles). And leave it to Karl Lagerfeld to reference the digital age and use a high tech backdrop against which to parade the house of Chanel’s time worn, iconic tweeds, quilts, pearls, gold chains, etc .

Alexander McQueen

As for what was presented on the runways, well there was endless variety in terms of what was offered and there are myriad options out there. While the fashion world may indeed live in a bubble and it generally seems out of touch with reality, the eclectic free floating nature of what was shown, and the often chaotic, surprising, unorthodox mixes on the recent runways seemed in step with our chaotic, crazy, topsy turvy, upside down world. It’s all about odd couple counterintuitive pairings; the mix of day and evening, streetwise and couture, boy and girl, sturdy and delicate, hard and soft, sheer and opaque, utilitarian and fanciful, practical and precious (in my opinion, this is the essence of modern). In some cases, as in this Alexander McQueen, all the aforementioned elements seemed to appear in one outfit .

Rick Owens

And of course, there’s the mixing of, or rather, the complete ignoring of seasons (fur trims and full on fur jackets and coats were on several runways along with quilted puffer jackets and vests). I often found myself asking “What season is this?”

Alexander Wang

In more than a few instances, there were ensembles that were so seasonally schizophrenic, you might consider them to be just the thing if you were packing for a trip and its destination was being kept a secret from you. Will it be summer or winter? Warm or cold? Or both? This is exactly what I thought when I saw this Alexander Wang come down the runway.

Right before NYFW, I noted that the lines are now clearly drawn between those who believe more is more and those who adhere to a less is more aesthetic. Do you subscribe to minimalism or maximalism? Simplicity or adornment? Fantasy or reality? Why choose? There is a case for all and a time and place for (almost) everything, depending on the occasion, the time, the place, one’s inclination, etc. Literally every length, every proportion, and every shape was presented and each has validity when it’s well done. Forget about ‘trends’. When it’s good it’s good, period.

Emilio Pucci

In terms of color, while there was a lot of white, black, black and white, navy, tan, army green, muted off shades and soft pastels (which are traditionally spring like), it was hard not to notice a resurgence of all out, joyous color which looked especially fresh when used in surprising or jarring combinations. And let’s not forget about head to toe red; when it makes an appearance, it always steals the show. As for prints and patterns, there were florals big and small, stripes, polka dots, plaids, tartans, and graphic geometrics.


If you are one of those who adhere to a strict uniform built on timeless beautifully made and luxuriously fabricated classics (trench coats, button down shirts, cardigans, turtlenecks, etc.), you’ll find plenty of those but this season, as I have previously noted, what was perhaps most interesting and most modern, was the way designers reinvented them by twisting, manipulating, and turning them upside down and inside out; literally breathing new life into them by virtue of fabric, cut, color, proportion. Getting back to shirts, the humble button down (whether solid or striped) was ubiquitous both on and off the runways and was offered up for both day and evening and in a number of iterations.


Denim, the world’s favorite fabric, and jeans, our most beloved item of clothing, were also given new life. They were shown for day and evening. At Saint Laurent they looked of the moment paired with sculpted black leather jackets and were a surprise at Carolina Herrera where they appeared as ballgowns. In one case, at DSquared2, a pair of slouchy deconstructed jeans were made completely out of tiny sequins and beads.


This was an especially stellar season for accessories, particularly bold, statement making costume jewelry (something to keep in mind considering that Kim Kardashian was robbed at gunpoint of $10 million dollars’ worth of diamonds during Paris Fashion Week). There were shoulder grazing earrings, sculptural cuffs, and long, oversized pendants on enormous chains which look particularly great after several seasons where it was all about the choker. They were exceptional at Prada where they recalled the designs of David Webb, and at Givenchy, where tortoiseshell was combined with enormous natural stones.


Bags came classic and ladylike (classic frame bags were shown at Celine ), avant garde and edgy, and some were architectural wonders. At Balenciaga, they almost resembled large ottoman poufs (the kind you sit on). In fact, they were so large there (which has become something of a house signature), you could literally haul your life around in them. That being said, on some runways, there were bags so small they could only hold a case of lipstick.


As for footwear, there were some that were edgy, whimsical, innovative, funky and decorated (Miuccia Prada’s museum worthy shoes also happen to be wearable and practical), and some that were simple and classic. Karl Lagerfeld is now taken with the classic and iconic Chanel cap toe ballerina flat and Dior’s Maria Grazia Chiuri made a case for a simple and chic pointy toed sling back- both flat and kitten heeled. It seemed boots were shown almost as often as shoes, slides, and sandals, even though these were spring and summer collections. And they were also shown for evening (Rick Owens, for one, paired flat tall leather boots with his almost other worldly draped tulle confections).

As for heel height, like skirt lengths, it is now a complete non-issue though designers are obviously continuing to factor in comfort and practicality, particularly for day. I think it’s safe to say that when women get used to comfort, it’s hard to go back. This was exemplified by the fact that many show goers proudly wore their sneakers, and models were able to gracefully and purposely saunter down the runway in their comfy sneakers and flat, flatform, low heeled shoes.

Saint Laurent

While many designers showed nothing but flats or low heels on the runway, some offered a variety of heels depending on the look and proportion they were after. Saint Laurent’s Anthony Vaccarello proved that shiny black patent menswear inspired oxfords (worn with black ankle socks) can look every bit as chic and sexy as pointy toed ankle strap high heeled pumps, if not more so because they’re not as obvious. Sexy is all about being comfortable (in your own skin) and confident.

Comme des Garcons

Anything goes and there are no rules when it comes to fashion, which has increasingly become more inclusive and less about specific trends. The same can be said about beauty. As they say, “beauty is in the eyes of the beholder” and quite frankly, what is more prized than the every hair in place, cookie cutter beauty queen prototype, is that which is flawed, unconventional and unique.


But as opposed to Donald Trump, who has been known to body shame, and for whom a doll like Miss Universe still remains the gold standard, when Jeremy Scott turned his models into life size paper dolls on his Moschino runway in Milan, he was being ironic and making a playful social commentary.

While I have no desire to dwell on politics, or the upcoming Presidential election, I think we can safely say the fashion world in general, is with ‘her’. Anna Wintour certainly is and has been quite public about it. She was busy campaigning for Hillary Clinton during Paris Fashion Week and she even hosted a fundraiser for her with Clinton’s top aide Huma Abedin called Design to Win. In addition to her title as Conde Nast's Artistic Director and Editor-in-Chief of Vogue, she can now add another title: campaigner in chief. Hillary was even an inspiration for some designers who were intent on portraying that strong powerful leader on the runways. But to be fair, there were also vestiges of Trump. No, not Donald, but his ex-wife Ivana when she ‘ruled’ the New York social scene in the over the top decadent 80’s. It has been hard not to notice the constant 80’s references (big shoulders, puff and balloon sleeves, ruffles) on recent runways. Suffice it to say, a little bit goes a long way.

Yes, this is a great time to be a woman, and not just because ‘SHE’ will hopefully occupy the White House come January. Women can be who they want to be and dress as they so desire without having to fit a certain mold, or factor in preconceived notions and societal mores. One of the best things about fashion is that it enables us to tap into our different sides which may vary depending on the occasion, the weather, and of course, one’s mood.


If you want to look authoritative and every bit the strong leader, go ahead and wear that strong shouldered pinstripe pantsuit; by the same token, you can chose to wear only dresses and skirts. You can embrace the dreamy, fairytale like, and ethereal; the sporty and athletic; the preppy; the punk. You can be a classicist, tap into your artsy bohemian side, or be wildly creative and individual. You can wear night for day or day for night (or mix them both). Long gone are the days when black tie has to mean a grand evening gown. What about a mini cocktail dress or “le smoking’? How about a colorful draped tunic worn over second skin latex high heeled over the knee boots for that matter? .

While focusing on something as superficial as clothing seems rather out of step and ridiculous when you think about current events and the tumultuous world we live in, I always come back to the same thought: the first thing we all have to do in the morning before we head out the door is get dressed. Our clothing not only covers us (well everyone but Kim Kardashian lol), protects us from the environment, and like it or not, our choices telegraph to the world who we are. It is part and parcel of our outward presentation. We all have to wear clothes so they might as well enhance, make us look and feel good, and enable us to better cope as we get through the paces of our daily lives.

Past articles:

Fall/Winter2016 Report
Spring/Summer 2016 Report
Fall/Winter 2015 Report
Spring/Summer2015 Report
Fall/Winter 2014 Report
Spring/Summer2014 Report
Fall/Winter2013 Report
Spring/Summer2013 Report
Fall/Winter2012 Report
Spring/Summer2012 Report
Fall/Winter 2011 Report
Spring/Summer 2011 Report
Fall/Winter 2010 Report
Spring/Summer 2010 Report
Fall/Winter 2009 Report
Spring/Summer 2009 Report
Fall/Winter 2008 Report
Spring/Summer 2008 Report
Fall/Winter 2007 Report
Spring/Summer 2007 Report
Fall/Winter 2006 Report
Spring/Summer 2006 Report
Bernadine Morris "Ten Best Looks" of the Spring 2006 Season
Fall/Winter 2005 Report
Bernadine Morris's "10 Best Looks" of the Fall 2005 Season
Sprijng/Summer 2005 Report
Bernadine Morris's "10 Best Looks" of the Spring 2005 Season

Fall/Winter 2004 Report
Bernadine Morris's "10 Best Looks" of the Fall 2004 Season
Spring/Summer 2004 Report
Bernadine Morris's "10 Best Looks" of the Spring 2004 Season
Fall/Winter 2003 Report

Spring/Summer 2003 Report