CARMEN MARC VALVO
(New York City)—Well before Donna Karan sent out looks with asymmetrical draping and an updated 80s vibe on the fifth day of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week here, it was clear what the American style trends for women would be next fall and winter.
More than a few collections featured spectacular gowns with dramatic cowls, billowing capes, plunging necklines, exposed backs. Fur apparel and trim were all over the place, not just because of Dennis Basso’s 30th anniversary in design. And several designers, such as Zang Toi and Carolina Herrera, drew inspiration from royal Russia.
But the trends that became evident over the course of the week suggested that designers are becoming increasingly inventive as they try to execute a creative vision while keeping the lights on. Overall, with the possible exception of the biggest names in fashion, the spare-no-expense textiles and embellishments that were de rigeur in collections just a decade ago are a thing of the past. Welcome to the new economy, where designers are forced to count the costs before they do anything.
A primary task has become how to bring a luxurious feel to a garment, to bring all of one’s design skills to bear to compensate for (and perhaps camouflage) the fact that one is working with materials that appear to be of lesser quality.
This is where design, tailoring, color selection, and manipulation of fabric separate the most talented designers from those less skilled.
And the results show up on the runway in trends that are reported around the world.
Plunging and deep-V necklines, as well as low-cut backs, were one of the most ubiquitous looks. Of course, the deeper the neckline or backline, the less fabric needed to create the garment.
Silhouettes showed more range than this season, from oversized jackets and tops reminiscent of the eighties to skinny waists for outfits that were simple and casual or layered and dressy.
Many designers mixed animal prints in the same way they have been combining unusual patterns in recent years. If one can sync up plaid and stripes, then why not zebra and cheetah? Enlarged prints, popular several years ago, are cycling back, especially hounds tooth.
There was no shortage of black-and-white ensembles, as well as lots of black and black lace and a plethora of winter white. Black and white are the two most basic foundational “colors” from which designers build, and at the same time cheaper fabrics rightly treated look more expensive in black or white as opposed to color.
Not that fall’s offerings were devoid of color. Plenty was presented, especially purples and berry shades. With or without color, looks had plenty of glimmer and shimmer, which when combined with enhanced texture and textile-mixing gave ensembles a bigger wow factor.
More elaborate accessories can also luxe up a look. Whether narrow or wide, belts were a key accessory. Shoes with sky-high heels were embellished with jewels, flowers, or feathers. Long gloves were combined with everything from suits and outerwear to evening gowns and cocktail dresses. And envelope clutches—small as a postcard or large as a serving tray—became the new “it” bag.
For men, next autumn and winter will see lots of rich knitwear, continuing influence from military uniforms, and a strong emphasis on tailored separates. Because fashion week is so dominated by women’s wear, there is talk among industry insiders of creating a separate fashion week for menswear.