Chanel’s best look for fall featured clothing that seemed more fitting at a high-end space age tween shop: a pastel tweed zip-up cardigan with coordinating headband dotted in Chanel pearls; fingerless silver driving gloves, scrunchy silver pants, glittered cap-toe high boots (destined to become a reference point of the season) and a padded, quilted iridescent stole that looked like it could come in handy if you happened to run a marathon on the moon.
The layman never understands fashion from the outside in. But from the inside looking out, the metaphor was obvious. The message, with the futuristic, outer space looks and Lagerfeld’s designer space rocket lifting off at the end of the show, seemed clear: escaping into a space fantasy was a way of coming to grips and finding humor in the mess of our polarized, violent, cacophonous reality.
If it gets bad enough, maybe we can just blast off but take our designer goods with us. The Martians will be impressed. And this point of view, which came from Paris very late in the rounds of fall shows, seemed to provide a plumb line for other collections, which similarly reached out to something both fantastic and familiar.
Another trend — this time, firmly terrestrial — made a similar but opposite impression in the form of the pantsuit. This fall, the sartorial two-piece set cropped up in a multitude of collections, no doubt inspired and politically charged by last year’s election.
Phoebe Philo drowned out the feminine silhouette at Celine, preferring oversized shirt collars, puddling trousers and exaggerated sleeves to create a fluid, edgy silhouette as a nod at the traditionally tailored, straightforward menswear version.
Haider Ackermann styled his models with white, austere faces, jet-black chili-bowl hair styles and black suiting, whose white trim, flicked-up shoulder seams and drop-crotch cropped trousers made the suiting feel part Star Trek automaton, part Huckleberry Finn.
At The Row, collar after collar, one clever jacket after another, waves of sultry earth tones in wide leg pants, straight skirts and undone hair felt both indulgent and strictly ascetic. The pantsuit, at least in terms of fashion, has always seemed to serve a twofold purpose: to anchor more whimsical trends as well as provide a metaphor for progress, liberation and power in an industry developed and controlled primarily by women.
The floral undertones in the collections were particularly notable because it blurred the once definite line between the fashion seasons. It also spoke to the resurging feminist movement that has seemed to come full circle while taking some additional turns. At Marni, open-toed embellished sandals, shades of citron backing garden prints and Victorian collars on silk defied the leather and fur and wool shown most everywhere else.
Prada referenced Federico Fellini’s “City of Women” and engaged the audience with combinations of feathers, watercolor florals and baker boy hats. The floral capes at Balenciaga and Valentino felt new and vintage at the same time; clever paired back to shiny, knee-high patent boots. While feminists used to dress more analogous to men to prove their existence and point, the new perspective seemed to insist that the overtly feminine exterior was the new, bolder and more natural statement.
From outer space to boardroom to garden party, fashion is bracing for the brave new world.