Author: Georgina Safe; Additional reporting by Annette Lin
Publication: Sydney Morning Herald
Section: News and Features
With home-grown designers taking inspiration from their international counterparts, Georgina Safe picks out the latest trends popping up on our catwalks.
The international fashion caravan has well and truly moved on but Australian designers are only now embracing the spring-summer collections shown in Paris, Milan and New York in September. The minimalism of Hannah MacGibbon at Chloe and Phoebe Philo at Celine, the 1970s hedonism of Marc Jacobs and the eye-popping hues and longer lengths of Raf Simons at Jil Sander are the key themes running through the local ranges on the runways at Australian Fashion Week.
These trends may lack originality, but the good news is they have been road tested and the local versions will come in at much more wallet-friendly prices. Buy wisely and you may even have spare change left over for a (genuine) Celine tote.
Australian designers are renowned for their love of colour and prints but there were precious few on the runways during the first days of Australian Fashion Week. Instead, Circular Quay was awash with white, cream and ivory, as designers channelled the sparseness of Celine and Chloe. Arnsdorf opened its show with a series of white looks, including flowing trousers worn with a button-through shirt and a minimal draped white shift, and Flannel presented a series of blouses, cuffed pants and a pin-tucked tunic in white.
Morrison and Gail Sorronda also worked white to the hilt. Therese Rawsthorne cleverly reworked the classic white shirt into sleeveless button-through dresses with sleeves that tied at the waist and other versions with cut-outs and panels at the shoulders.
White is one trend that translates perfectly in Sydney - it looks terrific on tanned Australian skin and it’s great news for dry cleaners everywhere. If all white is too confronting, team a crisp white shirt with neutral pants and colourful heels and you can’t go wrong.
Local labels including Zimmermann and Lover showed their softer side with collections that were heavy on lace in all its forms. Zimmermann had guipure, Chantilly and applique on its runway and played the wistful nature of lace and embroidery against geometric lines, such as panels and diamond cut-outs, for a modern edge. Panelling gave structure to the otherwise loose, free-flowing fabrics and shapes, while Lover’s cobweb-style dresses and skirts had a dreamy, nostalgic feel that recalled Marianne Faithfull in the 1960s.
Manning Cartell toughened up lace with a leather-fringed version and snake-inspired guipure, while Little Joe Woman sent out a cream batwing-sleeve minidress. When it comes to working lace into your wardrobe, take your inspiration from Catherine Middleton’s wedding dress - less is definitely more. Keep most of your body covered or wear just one piece, such as a top or blouse, and pair it with a blazer or denim jeans to ensure you look more haute hip than Holly Hobbie.
That ’70s show
The 1970s have been in the air for several seasons now, most notably at Marc Jacobs’s hedonistic spring-summer show in September during New York Fashion Week. Bec & Bridge overtly referred to the decade, with the label’s show notes declaring: “Lauren Hutton walks down Fifth Avenue wearing a crisp white shirt, a fedora angled just so.”
Indeed, the collection had everything from ’70s-style pussy-bow blouses to wrap dresses and shirts in pale, shimmery gold but the addition of Akubra-made fedoras and suede belts reminiscent of horse whips tipped the collection more in the direction of cowgirl than girl-about-town.
For better or worse, nothing says ’70s more than flares and Kirrily Johnston was loud and proud with a pair of orange suede bell-bottoms best left to the confident. Flannel’s velour wide-leg trousers in magenta and cream would also require attitude but both labels also offered toned-down versions.
Leather is forever
Leather is hardly a trend but it came to the forefront in collections from Flannel, Lover and Kirrily Johnston. Flannel’s patchwork caramel leather shifts had a ’70s vibe, while Kirrily Johnston also referenced the decade with shin-length leather wrap dresses. Lover’s blood-red leather A-line skirt with zip pockets was more 1980s Joan Jett but they were all a refreshing change from the ubiquitous black leather drainpipes worn by fashion editors in the front row.
Leather sweats and stains, so it is best worn on the bottom half in a dark colour (leggings or a skirt). To avoid overtly referencing Jett or Joey Ramone, soften it up with a silky blouse or soft cashmere jumper.
Baby’s got back (and shoulders)
With hemlines dipping at Australian Fashion Week in line with international trends, designers discovered new erogenous zones. Backless dresses and tops were everywhere, as was a new focus on the shoulders, best seen in Alex Perry’s colour-blocked cocktail dresses with cutaway bodices to show them off, and in Zimmermann’s ankle-length dresses that were also cut in half-moons from the neck to reveal the back and shoulders.
This trend is great news for more mature women, as the back and the shoulders are two of the last things to slide south. Just be sure your bodice is not too tight - cuts around the underarm and shoulder also highlight excess bulge.
Colour me happy
Karla Spetic and Alex Perry boldly bucked the trend towards neutrals with vibrant collections combining colour and print. Flamenco red, watermelon pink, aqua and lime were the hues of choice for Perry’s Cuban Princess collection, which also included an oriental-inspired print to lend a whiff of the exotic.
Karla Spetic’s geometric-print shifts, skirts and swing tops in red, purple and lime green were reminiscent of vintage Marimekko and teamed with block-colour bright cigarette pants, tanks and jackets for added impact on the retina. Manning Cartell sent out a simple Yves Klein blue shift to strong effect and Kirrily Johnston employed a combination of rust, burnt orange and bronze in the best colour palette so far.
It’s best to let such vibrant statement pieces speak for themselves; one is more than enough and keep accessories and jewellery to a minimum. Carl Kapp’s liquid draped and tied silk dresses came in myriad hues such as chartreuse, purple, teal and gold and looked as delicious as a box of brightly wrapped chocolates when his models took their finale walk.
Jump for it
The jumpsuit continued its fashionable reign, with almost every label putting some variation of boiler suit, playsuit or all-in-one on its runway. The best were a fitted navy jumpsuit with a scoop back and spaghetti T-strap at Arnsdorf and a cream linen number trimmed with leather at Zimmermann.
Karla Spetic’s came in vibrant hues with a ruffle at the waist, while Little Joe Woman had a more muted version in mushroom silk. But don’t be left fumbling for hours in the loos taking off your entire outfit with countless buttons and complicated ties: look for suits with a single zip that allows for fast and easy powder-room pit stops.
Floor-grazing skirts and trousers were everywhere this week, with almost every designer showing maxi-length dresses and softer trouser styles such as palazzo and wide-leg pants. The new proportions are in line with international trends, and some labels, such as Manning Cartell, took the Celine approach to insert slits into flowing garments to give them a little sensuality. While Manning Cartell sent out wide-leg, cream slit trousers teamed with a sheer caramel blouse, Zimmermann allowed the skirt panels of its longer dresses to swing free and show off the tanned and enviably toned legs of its models.
Marnie Skillings showed maxi skirts in vintage prints and Lisa Ho also let her lengths down with utilitarian-style skirts to the calf.
Happy hands at home
It seems some designers had Martha Stewart on their minds, with Manning Cartell and Flannel taking a crafty approach with techniques including crochet, basket weave and raffia.
Little Joe Woman sent out navy crochet dresses in long and short versions, Flannel had crochet shorts and Bec & Bridge delivered a navy crochet long skirt and tank top.
Crochet is best approached with extreme caution: it can look tackier than Britney Spears pre-comeback and somehow the effect of wearing it is similar to Man Ray’s photographic technique of solarisation, in which light areas appear darker and dark areas appear lighter (fashion-speak: it makes your bum look bigger than it is).
The new suit
If you buy one outfit this season, make it the new suit. Team a buttoned-up shirt with a softly tailored man-style jacket and pants that have either a cigarette or slightly wider leg. Recalling the New Romantic bands of the 1980s such as Spandau Ballet, the look has permeated this week’s runways, most memorably with Karla Spetic’s lime-green suit and shirt combination. Tone it down for the office with more neutral hues and pick it apart for the weekend by throwing the jacket over a party dress or wearing the trousers with a tank top and flats for a relaxed Saturday or Sunday brunch.
I also wrote notes for Wendell Teodoro of Zeduce here