Fashion Month 2016: The Trends

Following another hectic Fashion Month, we look at the themes across Paris, New York, London and Milan, with 1970s and 80s influences featuring strongly.

Feature by Sophie Benson | 05 Apr 2016

The journey from New York to Paris is a long one, and not just in terms of air miles. By the time Paris Fashion Week rolls round, NY, London and Milan can feel like distant memories; the shows fading into a fog of fashion fatigue. While each week has its own nuances, the underlying trends come together as common threads that weave the whole unwieldy affair together into a more manageable package. With that in mind, let’s talk about some of the trends that dominated the AW16 landscape...

Battle of the Decades

While the 1970s still reign supreme, the 80s are steadily elbowing their way in. Saint Laurent opened proceedings in LA with their pre-fall collection; an ode to the 70s rife with Bowie-worthy tuxes, gleaming sequins, fluid lamé and deliciously jarring textures, all served up with an unmistakably glam rock vibe. Despite this celebration of 70s flamboyance, Slimane stepped straight into the next decade in the closing days of Paris, his 80s-infused couture collection dancing to the beat of after-hours excess with a definitive party-girl spirit. This dichotomy does well to set the tone for the interplay between the two decades, which became apparent over the course of Fashion Month.

The likes of Chloé, Roberto Cavalli, Cynthia Rowley and Elie Saab stayed true to the 70s aesthetic with pussy bows, skinny scarves, bell sleeves, shearling, kaftans and flared trousers (to name just a few!), continuing the theme that has reached fever pitch on both the runway and the high street.

Gucci’s offering was, of course, rooted in the 70s, but the 80s crept in through the boxy, oversized eyewear, exaggerated shoulders and veil front hats. Interpreting the decade in a more conspicuous way, Véronique Leroy, Mugler and Isabel Marant offered up super-wide belts, stirrup leggings, structured (but not quite Dallas-level) shoulders, doorknocker earrings and peg-leg trousers. Those who wore them the first time around no doubt dread their return, but there’s no denying that the era responsible for power dressing has the fashion world back under its spell.

Frill Seeker

The perfect antidote to the quiet refinement that has shaped our wardrobe in recent years, 'volume' is the word of the moment. In terms of volume, Rosie Assoulin, Ellery, Beaufille and Jacquemus know how to unapologetically demand space. But if we’re talking surface area, frills are the way to go for those looking to gain more than a little extra elbow room. Already a surefire hit on the street-style scene, frills and ruffles add a sense of frivolity and a touch of the theatrical to modern dressing.

This season saw designers being commanded by the zeitgeist rather than pushing through it and, as such, softly ruffled blouses, which have already rolled out to every corner of the high street, were ten a penny. However, thanks to some deft reimagining, frills proved to be far from passé. From sweetly ruffled collars and cuffs at Roksanda to J.W. Anderson’s densely layered, architectural frills and Kenzo’s regal sleeves and shoulders, this burgeoning trend is taken to a newly decadent level.

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Keep It Zipped

Quietly bubbling under and yet overlooked in many reviews in favour of gaudier, more overt talking points, the high-neck zip-up top is sure to hit the high street ASAP, despite its subtlety. This athletic detail peppered the collections of 3.1 Phillip Lim, Paul & Joe, Marques Almeida and Christian Dior, often as a sporty counterpoint to sharp tailoring. It answers the question of how to cover our necks in a novel way (our current proclivity to do so demonstrated by the popularity of the ubiquitous turtle neck, the skinny scarf and – relative newcomer – the neckerchief). The trick to pulling off this trend is all in the contrast. Tuck it into patent leather trousers and you’re guaranteed to draw the lens of every awaiting street style photographer. Providing a more clearly signposted sportswear narrative, Lacoste and Vetements took their cues from Chas Tenenbaum and sent full tracksuit looks down the runway, with heeled boots and formal coats providing the balance.

Duvet Days

Answering the prayers of everyone who is in a symbiotic relationship with their bed, Balenciaga, MSGM and Stella McCartney took puffer jackets and quilting to new, king-sized proportions. It’s the school coat 2.0; all the warmth and comfort without a hint of embarrassment. At McCartney, plissé flares in rich jewel tones proffered a fresh perspective and an interesting sense of polarity. While McCartney’s coats and gilets hung amorphously off the body, Demna Gvasalia chose the meeting point between structure and dishevelment as the talking point for his inaugural show at the helm of Balenciaga. Venturing away from the confines of outerwear, MSGM complemented their giant polka dot coats with quilted roll clutches and pillowy wrap skirts, the latter in particular showing an intuitive approach to tackling current silhouettes and injecting them with a dose of the avant-garde. 

The skirts will no doubt be seen on fashion editors at next season’s round of shows but the real-world incarnation of this trend will likely be in the form of sizable yet slightly less generously proportioned coats thrown nonchalantly over anything from sportswear to evening wear.

The Accessories

Accessories have a sense of offbeat luxury for AW16. Boxy, structured handbags were the style of choice for most designers but for those who prefer a hands-free approach, Proenza Schouler and Valentino showed bags nestled snugly under the armpit, while Off-White, Vanessa Seward and Vanessa Bruno’s models wore theirs belted at the waist. Fur stoles thrown loosely around the shoulders brought a sense of old-school glamour to proceedings at Dries Van Noten and Fendi. Real fur, unfortunately, remains popular but brands such as Shrimps are flying the flag for faux fur on a luxury level. Elsewhere, while shoulders are still very much the body part of the moment, waists got a look-in with bustiers and deconstructed corsetry at Prada and Loewe. 

Fashion Month got off to a slow start and a sense of fatigue plagued many of the shows, but the resulting trends, while not the most progressive we’ve ever seen, are plentiful and instantly covetable, playing right into the hands of our current see-it-now, want-it-now approach to consuming fashion.