Forget the weather forecasts: sometimes there’s an eerie ecological prescience to the predictions proffered by fashion designers as to what we’ll all be wearing come the following season.
Take this spring, and the shows that a clutch of designers presented last September during New York, London, and Paris fashion weeks. Many seemed to tap into a forthcoming mood – namely, a contemporary news scene packed with the water crises which are currently bubbling up in California, Brazil and Korea (no hosepipe ban on home shores, yet).
Fashion’s reflection? To focus on the flip side. This season, dry-clean-only clothes looked increasingly wet, obsessed as designers were with the life aquatic. Models came clad as modern mermaids in fluid silk that seemed to ebb and flow around the body, painstakingly embellished with beaded barnacles and waterlogged fronds of seaweed.
How about that for a visual to counteract scorching temperatures and parched earth?
It’s a nice idea – especially for journalists eager to decipher a meaning behind every stitch – but it’s just a pipe-dream. It’s difficult to ally Valentino’s laboriously worked and lavishly priced sea world – of starfish-sequinned silk organza (£ 6,525) and mermaid-printed chiffon (£ 3,915) – with environmental concerns. As long as there’s still enough water to moor a yacht in, Val’s gals will be happy.
That’s flippant. But, in all truth, fashion’s obsession with the deep is rather shallow. Even the world’s most intellectual designers aren’t concerned with expressing environmental concerns through marine-life prints and sequinned carbuncles (that’s also morally problematic, given that the textile industry is responsible for more than 20 per cent of water pollution in countries such as Turkey, Indonesia and China).
Spring/summer 2015 advertising campaigns:
Spring/summer 2015 advertising campaigns:
1/17 Spring/summer 2015 advertising campaigns:
Kristen Stewart for Chanel eyewear spring/summer 2015
2/17 Spring/summer 2015 advertising campaigns:
Violetta Sanchez and Luz Godin for Lanvin
3/17 Spring/summer 2015 advertising campaigns:
Joan Didion stars in the Celine campaign shot by Juergen Teller.
4/17 Spring/summer 2015 advertising campaigns:
Georgia May Jagger for Mulberry
5/17 Spring/summer 2015 advertising campaigns:
Kit Harington for Jimmy Choo
6/17 Spring/summer 2015 advertising campaigns:
Marine Vacth for Miu Miu shot by Steven Meisel
7/17 Spring/summer 2015 advertising campaigns:
Nicki Minaj for Roberto Cavalli
8/17 Spring/summer 2015 advertising campaigns:
Natalia Vodianova for Stella McCartney shot by Harley Weir
9/17 Spring/summer 2015 advertising campaigns:
Kanye and Kim Kardashian West for Balmain
copyright: Mario Sorrenti/Balmain
10/17 Spring/summer 2015 advertising campaigns:
Kendall Jenner for Marc Jacobs
11/17 Spring/summer 2015 advertising campaigns:
Justin Bieber stars in the spring/summer 2015 Calvin Klein Jeans campaign shot by Mert and Marcus.
12/17 Spring/summer 2015 advertising campaigns:
Irina Shayk stars alongside Jarrod Scott in the Linda Farrow spring/summer 2015 campaign shot by Mariano Vivanco
13/17 Spring/summer 2015 advertising campaigns:
Calvin Harris unveiled as the star of Emporio Armani's spring/summer 2015 campaign photographed by Boo George
14/17 Spring/summer 2015 advertising campaigns:
Jourdan Dunn and Naomi Campbell for Burberry's spring/summer 2015 campaign, shot by Mario Testino
15/17 Spring/summer 2015 advertising campaigns:
Naomi Campbell stars in the Agent Provocateur spring/summer 2015 campaign, shot by Ellen Von Unwerth
16/17 Spring/summer 2015 advertising campaigns:
Julia Roberts stars in Givenchy by Ricardo Tisci spring/summer 2015, shot by Mert and Marcus
17/17 Spring/summer 2015 advertising campaigns:
Karolina Kurkova stars in the Giuseppe Zanotti campaign shot on the French Riviera.
It’s also a cliché – nautical style is a trope that designers return to constantly (it emerged for spring, too, at JW Anderson, Lacoste and Gucci). However, this incarnation offers subtle variation, crusting clothes with oceanic embellishment rather than kitting them out in HMS Pinafore drag. This fishy realness isn’t all that fresh – Elsa Schiaparelli collaborated with Dali back in 1937 to pattern a dress with a lobster. But it’s been less visible, and therefore is easier to dredge for new ideas.
The trigger? Not climate concern, but Nicolas Ghesquiere’s cruise show for Louis Vuitton last May. That collection not only took its influence from the seascape-inspired work of French artist Ange Leccia, but engaged the artist to create a “living” video catwalk of sea-swell as a backdrop. As for the clothes? Not navy blue, but lobster-pot bags, porthole-punched sweaters and intricate embroideries of mutated florals that resembled tangled plankton creeping across models’ bodies.
Ghesquiere isn’t a superficial designer: he evoked the undersea in subtler details, jumbo sunglasses mimicking snorkelling goggles, foamy, bonded fabrics that resembled neoprene, and plenty of slick, sealed scuba zips. He also takes the credit for doing that sort of under the sea shtick first – in 2003, he presented a collection for Balenciaga (where he was creative director until 2012) that, for the first time, explored technical detailing inspired by divers’ wetsuits.
His suctioned silhouettes, panelled with contrast colours and submarine scenes, have been riffed on (read: ripped off) by lesser talents for years. If there’s a neoprene sweatshirt in your wardrobe, it can be traced back to here.
This season wasn’t about sporty scuba stuff, but something more ethereal. The most interesting designers have offered their own, utterly distinct takes on a plunge into the beautiful briny sea. “Tide pools, mermaids, this whole underwater, beautiful world,” was how Kate and Laura Mulleavy described their spring/summer 2015 collection, while Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli sought to evoke the water-logged legs of the Grand European tours of old at Valentino. Mary Katrantzou was inspired by ancient geology (of course), tectonic plate movement (naturally) and the mega-ocean that archaeologists have dubbed Panthalassa (literally, “all the ocean”). What that led to, however, was some very pretty clothes: Katrantzou wove lace and jacquarded silk into repeat designs of foliage that resembled wriggling seaweed, while fictional undersea animals – a fusion of a fish, frog and octopus, say – were beaded on to evening gowns, or enamelled to form hefty costume jewellery.
Those fantastical creatures looked like nothing we’d seen before – which is, perhaps, the appeal of underwater exploration for fashion designers. It’s a voyage of discovery. And like a swimming pool on a hot summer’s day, it’s undeniably seductive. Prepare to dive in.Reuse content