The new season's everyday heroes
Floral flair ... Erdem. Photo: Getty Images
Fashion weeks cop a lot of flak. From the otherworldly models to the outre looks and sunglasses-wearing front row, it's easy to dismiss the twice-yearly events in New York, London, Milan and Paris as spectacles profoundly removed from the reality of everyday dressing. But look past the pomp and each season you'll find new garments - subtle riffs on the ultimate skirt, the go-to dress and multitasking pants - guaranteed to make your morning routine easier. And this year was no exception, delivering fresh looks as suitable for the office and leisure time in Australia as the fashion circuit in Europe and the US. From Christopher Kane's reinvention of pretty pastels to Balenciaga's brilliant new take on jeans, the international style community again proved fashion can be as practical as it is superficial. What's more, in response to continuing global economic uncertainty, the spring-summer 2012 shows offered the perfect antidote: a return to poised, put-together style that inspires as much confidence in the wearer as it does in passers-by.
Consider the return of longer lengths. Exquisitely executed in boudoir-silk pencil skirts by Peter Copping at Nina Ricci and voluminous, mid-calf midis by Marco Zanini at Rochas, the look takes its cue from the coiffed housewives of the '50s and is as suitable for work (in dark, block colours or black lace) as it is for the weekend (try chambray or a graphic print).
"The longer skirt is perfect for women of any shape who love a breezy look," says Dijanna Mulhearn, the author of Wardrobe 101. "The trick is to cinch the skirt at the waist - try a wide belt as seen at Celine. For something dressier, look for a piece with pleat or peplum details but opt for a lightweight fabric like chiffon to keep the look from coming off heavy."
Regarding dresses, a fresh take on the drop-waisted flapper frock has emerged as the go-to statement piece. Whether in graphic black-and-white cotton by Reed Krakoff, or embellished with sequins and feathers as shown by Gucci, Alberta Ferreti and Roberto Cavalli, the look becomes modern with strappy sandals and a contrast clutch.
"I think we've all fallen in love with the British series Downton Abbey," says Eva Galambos, owner of Paddington boutique Parlour X, "and the new take on the roaring '20s dress, with its drop-waist, pleated skirt and burnished bronze detailing, offers a welcome alternative to the standard LBD that I know my clients will love."
While both these styles flatter different shapes and sizes, the new-season pants offer the best argument that 2012 style isn't all about the waif. Introducing dressed-up track pants: wide-leg trousers featuring contrast side panels that marry the comfort of trackies with tuxedo-pants cool. At Gucci, Frida Giannini upped the glam factor with a cropped white topper boasting art deco embellishment, while at Antonio Berardi the fluid, long lines supported the sporty edge of a sleeveless blazer and white tee.
When it comes to the new jacket, the hero blazer of the past few years has taken a backseat to the anorak. Typically oversized (Kenzo) and army green (Burberry), the most unexpected version came from First Lady favourite Jason Wu, who gave the utilitarian essential an uptown edge in a chiffon-like translucent nylon. "Anoraks always have a place at Poepke but we're definitely noticing an increase in the popularity of the piece on the street," says Juliet Kember of the William Street, Paddington, boutique. "Our customers love the fact a parka adds an understated element of cool to every outfit, day or night."
New-season colours, too, offer workable options for every day. Championed by New York's Phillip Lim, whose collection mixed pastels with charcoal and cream to offer one of the best shows of the season, the new palette makes black, white and candy colours daily defaults.
"Sherbet shades are a nice break from blaring neons, yet offer enough colour to stand up to the Australian sun without washing out," Mulhearn says. "Colours like lavender, duck-egg blue and fairy floss pink look great worn together, or you can pluck out any one and team it back with neutrals to update your classics."
Seeking something that packs a little more punch? At Derek Lam and Rebecca Minkoff, high-octane orange was the highlight of choice.
"I love orange-based citrus tones and it's surprising just how much they suit so many skin tones," Mulhearn says. "The warm base adds colour to most complexions and is that perfect mood elevator on summery days. Though separates are easy, the look has even more impact worn head to toe."
As for prints, spring's customary floral fling blossomed into an explosion of electrifying hothouse blooms. At Altuzarra, the hyper-bright bouquet lifted a hip, downtown look courtesy of floral-panelled pencil skirts worn under loose-knit sweaters. At Erdem, the print took on a ladylike air in Wedgwood-blue spaghetti-strap summer dresses and pencil skirts. For a more youthful take on the trend, look no further than label-of-the-moment Carven.
"For me, the bright corals and abstract flowers offered by the Carven designer Guillaume Henry were some of the best of the season," Galambos says. "I loved the way they were worked into cut-out dresses and crop-tops proving the traditional print can not only be pretty but sexy, too."
On the accessories front, white pointed-toe stilettos stamped their authority as the shoe of the season. Spearheaded by Alexander Wang, who nailed two footwear trends at once with his pointy, ankle-strap kitten heels, the new shoes came into their own in the form of a snow-white pump at Derek Lam.
And perhaps you could summarise the spring-summer 2012 vibe in that one ensemble: comfortable, trans-seasonal but stopped from being boring by one fabulous point of difference. Fashion that saves you precious minutes in the morning and offers an instant pick-me-up - what more could you want?
From The Sydney Morning Herald