Fashion Review Of The Year: 2011

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From blushing brides to dramatic falls from grace, Susannah Frankel charts the highs and lows of the international style set in 2011

1. A fall from grace

For years he was dubbed fashion's favourite fantasist but following a racist and anti-Semitic outburst in a Paris café at the end of February, John Galliano was sacked from the house of Christian Dior, which he'd presided over for 15 years.

He also lost his own label, only days before shows for both were staged. Everyone from Karl Lagerfeld to Natalie Portman (among the faces of Dior) was quick to condemn the designer, who, in September, was found guilty on both charges. Those who witnessed the extraordinary workings of his mind couldn't help but mourn his departure from a position that he lit up with his wild imaginings.

2. Art attack

The gap between high and low culture continued to narrow as Yves Saint Laurent's Stefano Pilati dressed the cast of Harold Pinter's Betrayal for Ian Rickson's production at London's Comedy Theatre in June. Kristin Scott Thomas, Douglas Henshall and Ben Miles all wore his designs. In November, Louis Vuitton unveiled a trunk created in collaboration with Grayson Perry, with his bear Alan Measles – or at least a stunt double – in pride of place. LV is the title sponsor of Perry's ongoing British Museum show.

3. Harsh words

In March Hermès CEO Patrick Thomas accused LVMH (Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy) president Bernard Arnault of "rape", when it was revealed that the latter had acquired a 20 per cent stake of his label. In an uncharacteristically exasperated moment in the history of a venerable status name, Thomas said: "If you want to seduce a beautiful woman, you don't start by raping her from behind." That same month, Christophe Lemaire took over from Jean-Paul Gaultier as creative director of Hermès womenswear and showed his first collection there.

4. Happy birthday

On 8 April, Vivienne Westwood turned 70. Gucci celebrated its 90th birthday with the opening of a Gucci museum in its hometown of Florence in September. The Marc by Marc Jacobs collection was born a decade ago this year as was designer Peter Jensen's eponymous label – a book was published to commemorate the event in the autumn, and last month Jensen staged a retrospective fashion show at the Victoria & Albert Museum. Dazed & Confused is now 20, meanwhile. Another book (Making It Up As We Go Along, published by Rizzoli) and an exhibition of pioneering photographic work (at Somerset House, central London) marked this anniversary.

5. There went the brides

While Alexander McQueen's Sarah Burton denied claims that she would be dressing Catherine Middleton for her marriage to Prince William, on 27 April she was spotted entering the Gore Hotel in Kensington where the Middletons spent the night before the wedding and the truth was out. The gown was received as a thing of great and suitably modest beauty the world over. No one could ever accuse Kim Kardashian of modesty. Kardashian commissioned no less than three wedding dresses for her marriage to Kris Humphreys on 20 August, all by Vera Wang. Wang has since designed affordable copies for lesser mortals and due to go on sale in February, some time after Ms Kardashian filed for divorce, then, which is romantic. Her marriage lasted just 72 days. Another Kate – Ms Moss – got married too, to long-time partner, Jamie Hince, on 2 July and wearing an ivory bias-cut slip made for her by John Galliano.

6. The rumour mill

Even before Galliano had officially parted company with Dior, the rumour mill began turning regarding his successor. Until recently, Marc Jacobs, creative director of Louis Vuitton, was considered to be frontrunner, but it is now believed that Raf Simons is the main contender. Givenchy's Riccardo Tisci, Alexander McQueen's Sarah Burton and Balenciaga's Nicolas Ghesquière have also been cited as in the frame. While LVMH continues its search, Galliano's long-time first assistant designer, Bill Gaytten has taken over his signature line and is also caretaker at Dior.

7. Ruby slippers

On 8 April, it emerged that shoemaker to the stars, Christian Louboutin, was suing Yves Saint Laurent for using a red sole to match the upper of a new-season suede pump. Louboutin trademarked his signature sole in 2008 and asked YSL to withdraw the offending item. "M Louboutin is the first designer to develop the idea of having red soles on women's shoes," his lawsuit stated. Attorneys acting on behalf of Yves Saint Laurent responded: "Red outsoles are a commonly used ornamental design feature in footwear, dating as far back as the red shoes worn by King Louis XIV in the 1600s and the ruby red shoes that carried Dorothy home in The Wizard of Oz." On 10 August, at the preliminary hearing in New York, Judge Victor Marrero took such flamboyancy one step further, denying the injunction and comparing the case to a hypothetical one in which Picasso sued Monet for using the colour blue. Louboutin's lawyers have said that they will keep fighting.

8. Going Gaga

Lady Gaga took to the Paris catwalk for her friend and collaborator Nicola Formichetti's debut show for Thierry Mugler on 3 March and the media went into overdrive. It's been a busy year for Formichetti elsewhere too. Since Jil Sander's departure from Uniqlo (her final collection is in store now), he has been appointed fashion director of the Japanese high-street giant's Innovation Project while Naoki Takisawa, formerly of Issey Miyake, is its new design director. Formichetti also curated a series of T-shirts for Uniqlo – designed by Gaga again, Alber Elbaz, Karl Lagerfeld and more – to raise money for those affected by the earthquake in Japan.

9. High fliers

On 17 June, Prada floated on the Hong Kong stock exchange. Any interest was generated not least because it demanded full disclosure from the business, which hitherto had the luxury of keeping any figures to itself. And so it emerged that Miuccia Prada and her husband and Prada Group CEO Patrizio Bertelli earned €10m and €9.7m the previous year respectively, making them among the most highly paid figures in fashion.

10. Alexander the great

Savage Beauty – an Alexander McQueen retrospective – opened at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York on 4 May and broke all attendance levels. The show was extended for a week in August to accommodate as many visitors as possible. McQueen's contemporary, Hussein Chalayan, was also honoured with an exhibition, this time at Paris's Les Arts Decoratifs – Mode et Textile that opened at the beginning of July.

11. Back to school

In September, the £200m Central Saint Martins redevelopment opened its doors at Granary Square, King's Cross. For the first time in the college's history, students from the fine art, graphics, fashion, drama and performance departments gathered under one enormous roof – there's a massive 10 acres of floor space. The most famous fashion college in the world now has a working environment to match.

12. Cool Britannia

Tom Ford now thinks London Fashion Week is high-profile enough to be home to his twice-yearly women's ready-to-wear show – he unveiled his summer collection in the British fashion capital in September. If ever there was a year when this all-too-often beleaguered event exceeded all expectations then 2011 was surely it. Unprecedented attendance levels, not to mention talent that, like Meadham Kirchhoff's, more than lives up to the hype that surrounds it notwithstanding , Italy's Camera Nazionale della Moda has fixed its autumn 2012 collection dates in direct conflict with those of the British collections. The Huffington Post described this turn of events as "The Battle of the Catwalks" as, despite increased pressure from all sides, Milan's designer superpowers have refused so far to budge.

13. Viva Versace

There's nothing like a well-judged collaboration and 2011 has seen its fair share. Top of the list must be Versace for H&M, a baroque extravaganza that went on sale on 18 November – La Versace went so far as to make a personal appearance at the chain's Regent Street store. The collection sold out in a matter of days and was so successful there's more to come next year. Christopher Kane's line for J Brand, which launched in November, was an equally impressive coup, featuring candy coloured denim with fashionably frayed edges, courtesy of British fashion's designer du jour. Also of note this year has been Opening Ceremony's link-ups with MM6, Rodarte, Chloe Sevigny, Pendleton and more, and M.A.C's with Cindy Sherman, Gareth Pugh and Miss Piggy. Soon to come is the make-up brand's Daphne Guinness collection. Ms Guinness also launched a fragrance – named Daphne – with Comme des Garçons in September.

14. Bear necessities

Whoever said the fashion industry has no heart? In November, some of this world's main protagonists gave Pudsey Bear a makeover. Erdem, Louis Vuitton, Topshop, Giles Deacon, Pringle, Mulberry and Liberty were just some of the names who took part and bears were auctioned online to raise money for Children in Need. Vuitton's Pudsey (designed by Kim Jones, named Louis Vuitton's menswear director in March) went for a massive £35,600, putting any competition, however well-intentioned, into the shade.

15. Great British brand

Never a brand to miss a trick as far as digital innovation is concerned, at London Fashion Week in September Burberry gave the world its first ever "tweetwalk" – every exit appeared on Twitter moments before it made it on to the catwalk proper. Also of note, several key looks in the collection went on sale online immediately after they were shown – normally even the most fashion obsessed consumer would have to wait a good six months to buy them. More generally, and despite global recession, this much-loved British label continued to post figures that are surely the envy of its esteemed competitors the world over.

Fashion Awards

The 2011 British Fashion Awards took place on 28 November at the Savoy Hotel. And the winners were...

Designer of the Year: Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen

Isabella Blow Award for Fashion Creator: Sam Gainsbury

New Establishment Award: Christopher Kane

Red Carpet Award: Stella McCartney

Designer Brand: Victoria Beckham

Menswear Designer: Kim Jones

Accessory Designer: Charlotte Olympia

Outstanding Achievement Award: Paul Smith

Model of the Year: Stella Tennant

British Style Award (voted for by the British public): Alexa Chung

The contribution to fashion of stylist and editor-in-chief of LOVE magazine, Katie Grand, was acknowledged when, on 27 October, she received the Wall Street Journal Fashion Innovator Award. Grand was in elevated company. Ai Weiwei (art), Bjarke Ingels (architecture), Steve Ells (food), Elon Musk (technology), Joris Laarman (design) and The Giving Pledge (philanthropy) were among those also awarded gongs by the paper.

The Way We Wore

Looks we loved...

Block colour (best at Jil Sander). Neon (Miu Miu and Christopher Kane). Pleats (that Whistles skirt). Androgyny (everywhere from Stella McCartney to Chanel and all over the high street too). Fetish (leather leggings and Louis Vuitton latex and handcuffs). Theyskens Theory (what's not to want?). Baseball jackets (Isabel Marant's spawned a million imitations). Polka dots (so Rive Gauche). Duffel coats (think Paddington Bear). Flats (finally running is fashionable). Glitter shoes (Dorothy lives and breathes). Knee boots (in leather, rubber, wedge, spike or flat-heeled). Practical bags (from the Céline cabas to the Cambridge Company's satchels).

And weren't so sure about...

Victoriana (a nice idea but so last century). Gap flares (we tried – and failed). Fruit prints (Prada's bananas were a timely ruse but grapefruits took things a step too far). Designer star prints (over before they had even started so easy were they for the high street to emulate). Navajo (the meaningless appropriation of faraway styles is less than desirable).

Launches to remember...

Prada costume jewellery (so true to the first lady of fashion's personal style). Make-up ranges from Tom Ford and Dolce & Gabbana (what could be more glamorous?). No. 19 Poudre (a lovely new interpretation) of the original scent. Chanel Peridot (the green/gold nail colour of the year). Jonathan Saunders menswear (chic but not cheap). Current Elliott menswear (now boys can wear the most beautifully worn denim too). Eres London (the finest swimwear in the world now has its own London home).

And forget...

Lanvin childrenswear (although we hate to say it, cuteness can go too far). Lip transfers (the last word in over-embellishment). Fe jeans (sitting on silicone implants seemed like a good idea at the time but then it didn't).

And so farewell...

Elizabeth Taylor, Loulou de la Falaise, François Lesage and Evelyn Lauder.

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