The do's and don'ts of this summer's trends
The heat is on with block colours, vivid prints and neon splashes.
It's hard to ignore fashion trends. Hands up who doesn't have a pair of platform shoes in their wardrobe? (I've got a pair from Jessica Simpson's eponymous label that would have basketball scouts clamouring for my details.) Or who didn't buy a maxi dress last summer? The only problem with embracing trends is if you can't distinguish fashion from fad, or trendy from tragic. Hence, the ultimate fashion forecast guide.
Colour me neon
Magdalena Velevska dress from Husk Alexander Wang sunglasses from Marais Shourouk necklace and Stella McCartney clutch from Christine. Walter Steiger heels from Miss Louise
Get out your sunglasses, folks: it's going to be a bright, bright summer. "It's the loudest season ever!" the creative manager of Harris Scarfe, Chris Kontos, declares. "It's all about block colour and massive accessories."
Talitha Becker, the director of Sass Clothing, agrees that it's time to "ditch the dark clothes this summer", since that range will include splashes of neon.
While neon's a definite trend, even fashion experts suggest progressing with caution.
The editor of Harper's Bazaar, Kellie Hush, says: "I'm not a big fan of neon at all; I saw a lot of it in Seed when I was shopping for my little girls, and that's probably the right age for it. I don't think adults should be wearing it. Perhaps wear a neon belt, if you must.
"It's a very young trend. It's probably for those consumers who didn't live through the '80s. But it reminds me of Wham!, so I can't do it. I think I'm much more of a classic dresser, so I look at trends that will last more than a season. Neon is a fast-fashion trend that you'll see in places like Zara."
It's also true for Sportsgirl, since Leigh Hawkes, its trend forecaster, says summer will see "Aztec patterns and tropical florals that bring the super-bright colours out. Statement necklaces in bright neons highlight this look."
But not every designer thinks colour is a factor for summer. Designer Toni Maticevski – he of the many flesh-coloured frocks – says: "I'm a neutral man. I work with texture, rather than colour."
Word on the street
Carven top and Eddie Borgo necklace both from Marais Therese Rawsthorne leather skirt from Green with Envy Alexander McQueen union jack box bag from Miss Louise
Designer Alexander Wang has been quoted as saying, "Anyone can get dressed up and glamorous, but it is how people dress in their days off that are the most intriguing."
With Bill Cunningham snapping scene-stealers on the streets of Manhattan for The New York Times and the mega-rise of the street-fashion blogger, even designers and runways are borrowing from street style, not the other way around. Sass Clothing's Becker says, "It's currently about the look on the street and the way people are interpreting fashion and making it look unique. It's the feeling I get whenever I travel and am away – I love the way people put things together. It's almost like they've gotten dressed in the dark – it's a real mix and clash of things.
"It's OK to put neon with soft colours, or spots with stripes – it's so diverse. The way people put things together is what makes them stand apart."
Harper's Bazaar's Hush adds: "People still like to watch what celebrities like Miranda Kerr and Kate Bosworth are wearing, but street-style girls are better dressers than actresses like Jessica Alba. The whole street style and off-duty model thing is huge. Head-to-toe designer dressing is not cool any more. You'd rather wear the Celine tote with Zara pants and the T-shirt you bought in Japan – we don't do that head-to-toe luxury dressing that you would've done in the '90s. In fashion now, you have to show that you haven't walked straight out of a catalogue. You want to show that you've been able to mix things together and look amazing."
And it's only going to get bigger, people. As Georgia Danos, co-owner of Hawksburn store Grace Melbourne points out, "There's so much about – people are constantly posting things they're wearing on Instagram."
Clover Canyon shorts from Husk Dion Lee bra from Green with Envy Marni jacket and cardigan from Belinda Toy Watch from Christine Giuseppe Zanotti platform trainers from Miss Louise
Is it the aftermath of Olympic fever? Do we all just want to look like Maria Sharapova? Whatever the origin, Harper's Hush cites sports luxe as "one of the big trends. Josh Goot and Dion Lee are doing it well. It's quite body con – it's supposed to hug the body and look really sporty – so it's not for everyone. Also, a lot of designers are using neoprene, which can be a bit tricky to wear, and quite young. Josh has listened to his market, so his dresses are a bit longer this season.
"Helmut Lang and Calvin Klein have always been good at sports luxe. It's very simple. But Dion Lee and Josh Goot have taken it up a level with colour and digital prints, which is what you've seen in London Fashion Week, by designers Mary Katrantzou and Peter Pilotto – those strong designers use mad digital prints, which everyone's wearing." And runners have gone high-fashion, too. Adidas, Puma and Nike are bringing out expensive trainers, Hush says, with high-end designers getting in on the trend.
"Isabel Marant's high-tops are the fashion pack's must-have right now. Miranda Kerr has her red pair on high rotation," she says.
The humble leather jacket, too, is going to take a turn. Designer Rebecca Vallance says: "Who says you can't wear leather in summer? It's all about choosing a soft-coloured leather, rather than going for something heavy and black. For my SS12 collection, inspired by warm days in Palm Springs, I contrasted a champagne buttery-soft leather mini skirt against a floral silk printed blouse."
Stylist Philip Boon predicts that stores will stock "leather in colours that you don't expect, like pastels, brights and even prints. It's a way to inject another texture into summer wardrobes, and looks great when mixed with lighter fabrics, like cotton voile and linen. Leather shorts [are] a fun way to do this style, but be careful: if you don't do lighter-coloured leather this way, you may end up looking like a cast member from The Sound of Music."
Paul & Joe lace top, Lover black bra worn underneath from Torsa. Paul & Joe lace skirt Sergio Rossi brogues from Miss Louise Maison Michel ears and lace veil from Christine
Lace need not conjure up images of grandma's doily set. Designer Yeojin Bae says "lace and transparency is a hot trend for summer, both in neutrals and pop-colour shades. It's a trend for all ages, and looks best tailored and chic, with just a hint of subtle sex appeal."
It's especially big for warmer weather: "I think the summer season makes us want to show a bit more skin and it's a follow-on from the lingerie trend, which repeats itself every few seasons. My interpretation of lace this season is an embroidery design that creates patterns of sheerness, and a very chic mid-calf-length dress."
This trend gets the thumbs up from Harper's Hush: "I love lace; a see-through top is very young and sexy. Both Collette Dinnigan and Stella McCartney do lace well. You can't go wrong with a lace dress; it's not a fashion flash in the pan."
Feminine fashion gets a look in elsewhere, with designers set to add a bit of frou-frou to the mix. "A couple of months ago, Gucci and Balenciaga did lots of frills and ruffles, so that will make its way over to Australia for summer," Hush says.
For Sass Clothing, feminine dressing means "a lot of lace pieces and vintage influences. We've also got bows, sequins and diamantes".
Not everyone interprets the trend the same way. For sass & bide, summer will be "an exploration of contrast . . . a union of the masculine and the feminine," co-founder Sarah-Jane Clarke says.
"This season, we explored the idea of a sensual masculinity, in which we've uncovered this kind of unbridled and empowered femininity. The masculine feeling throughout is counterbalanced by strong feminine notions, in ethereal sheer silks, flickers of diamante embellishment and the use of the camellia flower. In every piece, we wanted to represent a harmonious clash of gender, and you'll see this especially in the mix of fabrics, shapes and embellishment."
Pants Opening Ceremony top from Green with Envy Haider Ackermann pants from Assin The Row sunglasses from Belinda Balenciaga shoes from Miss Louise
Vivid, strong prints will be splashing over fabric everywhere, including in Megan Park's label, where "we have created bold, Hawaiian-style prints that are loud in pattern and colour", she says. "For a woman who is not so confident in wearing statement prints, it's best to keep the shape and cut of the garment ultra simple. For those who are more adventurous, the louder the better."
Sass & bide has also taken travel inspiration for its summer collection, influenced by a trip to South America. Expect sci-fi prints at Topshop: Catherine McKay, personal shopping manager, describes the season as embodying "galactic glamour with a techno twist".
Making a splash
Humble bathing suit, move over. Swimwear might have once been dominated by dedicated labels such as Seafolly, but now other designers are encroaching on that territory.
Harper's Hush says, "It's the whole 360-degree dressing – you can't be a designer that just does dresses any more," although she admits that "swimwear is difficult to do because it's hard to get the fitting right".
As such, "swimwear has a lot more corsetry – it pulls you in, in all the right places, such as Megan Gale's Isola line, which is hard to get on, but worth it! Zimmermann's strongest line is still their swimwear, and there are lots of prints and pretty florals around. We Are Handsome are doing mad animal prints: instead of it just being a bit of the animal, they'll have the whole lion on the swimsuit."
Marilyn Monroe once said: "Give a girl the right shoes and she can conquer the world." Attention, those seeking global domination: Hush says "there's a whole range of footwear that's fashionable. Gladiator sandals are still around, although they're not as extreme as they once were, where it looked like you'd walked onto a film set with Russell Crowe.
"Christian Louboutin is still doing a massive heel, wedges are still around. And there are still those shoes that make a statement, like ones by Prada or Miu Miu."
New to the Australian market is TOMS, a brand whose most popular style is an uber-comfortable slip-on shoe that caters to a high-end client (in the US, they sell at Barneys, among other places) at a low-end price point (around the $50 mark) – all for a good cause. For every pair of shoes that sells, the company matches that by giving a pair of new shoes to a child in need.
Proof wooden eyewear – handmade, sustainable wood sunglasses – is a favourite of Beyonce (some in the latest collection are made from 100 per cent recycled skateboard decks), and it donates a portion of profits to optical surgery in India.
WeWood Australia has luxury wooden watches that are hypoallergenic, weigh just 42 grams, and offer a trade-off for customers: for every timepiece bought, they plant a tree. Kesha and Gavin Rossdale are fans.
Photographer Mike Baker Styling Emily Ward. Hair and Makeup Julie Provis Model Siobhan