Femme, futuristic and in your face: Highlights of Fashion Week

african kings

Fashion is a curious industry. On the one hand, it seems frivolous. It is, after all, showcasing what people put on their bodies as they go about their day — as opposed to how to save the world, how to put food on your plate, or how to navigate the political arena to name a few noble causes. It is also (if one is honest) a multibillion dollar global industry that fuels a very base aspect of human nature that, oddly, may inform all of the above-mentioned serious efforts.

Human nature dictates that whether we intend it or not people do size each other up based on how they present themselves. Your visual signature has a direct psychological impact on those who see you. How you affect people really does start with the way you look. Thus, the way you adorn your body, however simplistically or dramatically, does affect the way that people respond to you.

Click here to see some of the hot designs from Fashion Week

To those saying “so what,” you may be shrugging off a key element in wielding your power without realizing it. Think about it. From the beginning of time, people have been dressing themselves. Drawing upon our surroundings, the most utilitarian and creative among us have chosen to incorporate aspects of our environment into our attire. Colors reflect the mood and resources of the creator’s awareness. Fabrics and textures respond or lead based on sensibility and need.

My fundamental belief is that fashion has consistently taken the temperature of its culture, showcasing a representation of what’s happening in our world and where it’s headed. That’s what makes this next Fall/Winter 2011 season that was just presented during Mercedes Benz Fashion Week particularly fascinating. When you look closely enough, you get a good sense of where our world is headed right now.

THE TRENDS

IN YOUR FACE

At a time when the Tea Party remains on the rise, and people regularly say things that are abominable with nary a second thought, it’s no wonder that the fashion landscape is standing up to the lobbyists at PETA. Just a few years ago, animal rights protesters were boldly hurling buckets of colored paint on well-heeled women who dared to wear fur. This season is so flagrantly showcasing fur that it may just be a futile effort for those in the anti-fur movement.

To be sure, there’s plenty of gratuitous animal softness accenting necklines, hems, handbags and every manner of coat, I have to admit that it’s a fur lover’s dream. (See Dennis Basso, J. Mendel, Michael Kors, Vera Wang, Christian Coda and on.) For those who don’t dare go all the way there, a few designers have stuck with faux options, including Tracy Reese.

ALL WRAPPED UP

In just about anywhere USA, it’s cold right now. Really cold. And it has been for a few winters of late. Whereas in the very recent past, designers bucked the notion of the cold and dressed the most chic women in bare ensembles with super-lightweight coats, this season the cold has shaken them back into reality. Every major fashion house featured sculptural silhouettes in outerwear designed to be showstoppers of their own. Some of the best came from Michael Kors, Chado Ralph Rucci, Donna Karan, Ralph Lauren. A variation came in elegant capes from everywhere including Timo Weiland and The Vessel by Lois.

DRAB

Usually during the Fall you can count on a rich harvest of colors, reflective of the leaves changing as you drive through the countryside. While there were pops of color, most notably a very sunny orange, vibrant color did not predominate the runways. Instead, variations on military greens, khakis, taupes, grays, olives and browns were the stars.

Why? My vote is that this is a continuation of the influence and impact that war has on every one of us. If you look back in time, you will see that every time our world is suffering under the guise of war, drab tones, epaulettes, military jackets and footwear eke their way onto the fashion scene.
INDECISIVENESS

In our political world, haven’t we noticed people staunchly taking up one position only to swing to the other side after either a bit of cajoling or a real change of mind? Well, that’s what will be happening in some wardrobes if women choose broadly among the season’s choices. In general, women’s clothing is more conservative this year, a clear reflection of the temper of the times. Most skirts are knee length and either body-skimming or delicately flowing (DVF, Prabal Gurung, BCBG and Nanette Lepore). Look a bit longer, though, and you will see minis still all over the runways juxtaposed to long, flowing maxis. Those long silhouettes that made their debut during the spring in fluid designs worn best with flats have pushed their way into fall/winter with flats or super-high wedge boots. Virtually every designer entered this space with Tracy Reese, Michael Kors, Max Azria, and Milly having great offerings.

FEMME

The powerful woman remains an image that our world and our designers care to exploit. This season femininity shows its sensibility through many design elements including sexy cutouts (Chado Ralph Rucci), body-clinging cashmere (Michael Kors), jeweled embellishments (Byron Lars Beauty Mark and Rebecca Minkoff), flowing skirts (Tracy Reese and Derek Lam), lots of lace (Elie Tahari, Jason Wu, and show-stopping evening gowns (Badgley Mischka, Milly by Michelle Smith and Cynthia Rowley).

ETHNIC INCLUSION

It’s no surprise that we are becoming a global culture. That naturally means that fabrics, textures and silhouettes from different parts of the world are finding their way into ready-to-wear. British-based Nigerian designer Duro Olowu leads the charge with his unique mix of classic African prints and original textiles on modern silhouettes. Oscar de la Renta stays in the game, this time with Russian-inspired prints. Everything from IKAT to West African textile design found its way on this season’s runways.

HIS AND HERS

History has been turned on its toes with the expulsion of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and the advent of more gay marriage than ever in history. Hence, no surprise that gender-bending appeared at its best this season with lots of black and white, suiting accented with ties and flat shoes, but always with a sexy edge. Great ideas at Yigal Azrouel, Derek Lam Alexander Wang.

FUTURISTIC

Ultimately, there will be some who believe in reaching for the future as a way of securing next. How that translates in fashion is often in angular, geometric lines, metallic tones. You know, think Star Trek. There was no shortage of these elements across the runways — from Jenny Packham and Herve Leger by Max Azria.