Four fashion capitals and four weeks of runway previews didn’t add up to a single must-have look for spring-summer ’09.
That might be just fine with consumers who, considering the economic meltdown of recent days, probably are in no mood to start their shopping lists for next season.
Of course designers couldn’t have predicted such a stark picture when they started crafting these collections months before their previews in New York, London, Paris and Milan. Still, there was a collective movement toward a looser shape compared to the buttoned-up style of fall.
The passing of Yves Saint Laurent in June, the time when many designers were putting together their spring collections, also seemed to have a strong influence, especially in safari and tribal touches.
Some things seemed made for runway drama–like the harem pants that were ubiquitous in New York and made encore appearances in Europe–but received a lukewarm, at best, reaction from retailers.
Designers typically offer a more toned-down version of the collection to store buyers in follow-up showroom appointments and those probably give a better sense of what’s to come, says Candy Pratts Price, executive editor at Style.com. "This is what you saw, not what is being delivered."
Here’s what editors, stylists and retailers came home to consider:
Call it sand, skin or champagne: There was a steady parade of nude colors on the runways, although the models weren’t necessarily showing a lot of skin. It didn’t matter. The effect of flesh-colored clothes–whether they’re flashy with sparkle or more sophisticated in an earth tone–is sexy.
"Everyone did nude, but it wasn’t lingerie nude all the time _ it was an interesting mix with yellow and orange," observes Pratts Price.
And, she adds, these flesh tones weren’t used to complement delicate, romantic pieces as much as strong, futuristic looks.
Designers offered up the modern goddess as their collective muse, showing a string of one-shouldered looks. Most of the outfits were evening gowns but the asymmetric style was also popular with more casual, shorter silhouette.
Sometimes the off-kilter line creates a longer, leaner appearance; sometimes, though, the outfit just looks askew.
The look also fueled the tribal vibe, especially on draped dresses.
While a more relaxed shape dominated, there was a proliferation of tight corsets, too. It was the yin to the yang, and the va in vavoom. Corsets were featured in old-school cocktail dresses and playful rompers. Prada also adopted bra tops, so the lingerie look may linger awhile.
Carol Mitchell, owner of an eponymous upscale boutique in McLean, Va., said her suburban D.C. customers prefer something with a fitted shape to a flowing silhouette. She’s confident that Dolce & Gabbana’s bra dresses will do well in her store.
"You see that Dolce & Gabbana dress and you know this is just going to fit so well. … The bones they use are the same ones the ballerina costumes are made of, so they move and they are not stiff. The fabric probably is stretch too. It’s comfortable but looks great."
Either the fashion industry isn’t going to let the shaky economy drag them down–or designers are trying to escape it. There was a clear tropical influence on the clothes for spring-summer. If nude is the must-have neutral over standard black and white, then tangerine orange and hibiscus pink, along with ocean blues, are the favorite infusions of color instead of pastels.
The top-tier designer labels in Mitchell’s store, including Lanvin and Narciso Rodriguez, also adopted a fiery red, but it was with undertones of orange instead of blue.
It feels good to surround yourself with these colors after the winter, she says, but for those really starved for brights actually will start seeing color trickle in during November when resort-season clothes begin to appear.
The gladiator might reach its full height of popularity in spring ’09. What started as a flat summertime-sandal alternative to the ballet slipper has gotten a progressively higher heel as the years have gone on. The shoes on the runway this go around had towering heels, tough-girl styling and sometimes seemingly unstable architecture.
Pratts Price noted that at bellwether accessories house Prada, the models had trouble making it down the runway.
"I love high heels but I have to be able to work in these shoes," she says. "I want to be able to evacuate a plane in my shoes and I’m not sure I could in these."
Images courtesy of the Fashion Spot forums.