This season designers are challenging fashionista to follow them to new depths. They are taking them under the sea to a water world filled with outfits awash with ocean waves, covered in chunky coral or swimming with schools of tropical fish.
This underwater love luckily never succumbed to the undertow of trite references or ironic embellishments. Designers hit upon the magical nature of the universe below the waves and transformed the spring/summer 2012 season into a celebration of its unique beauty.
Staying above water brands like Peter Pilotto, Gabriele Colangelo and Moschino Cheap and Chic used rippling waves to add a sense of energy to their ensembles. In Pilotto’s sporty collection prints creatively blended the images of crashing wave with graphic lines that hinted at gills. The girly look of Moshino uses a childlike watercolor print of squiggly waves of blue that bled into each other on a white dress that echoed paper stock. But it was hot young Italian designer Gabriele Colangelo- who was inspired by the artist Gerhard Richter- who came up with inspired iridescent prints of a sun dappled sea that beautifully diluted across the torso of a dress or dripped down a pair of trousers.
Once designers dived below the calm ocean surface their creations became much more experimental. The undisputed maestro Karl Lagerfeld transformed the cavernous Grand Palais in Paris into a dazzling seabed covered in oversized clamshells, seaweed and translucent bubbles for his Chanel show. The tour du force collection held its own against the striking backdrop. Fluttering pleated tops referenced fish scales as did the iridescent embellishments on rounded jackets or ankle length skirts in liquid lame. Tuffs of seaweed like chiffon sprouted out of the hips of dresses and handbags came in the form of seawater pearls.
Mary Katrantzou, who has become a virtuoso at reimagining mundane pints, was also bold in her underwater choices. She wrapped her bell skirted dresses in shimmering fish and colorful reefs but twisted the fabric so that its underlying theme was cleverly obscured within the construction. More straightforward was the style at Givenchy where designer Riccardo Tisci circumvented prints and instead opted for sharp tailoring in a restricted color pallet of white, kaki, gray and black with just a touch of seashell pink. The strong shouldered jackets and dresses (inspired by surfers and mermaids) were soften up by undulating lapels and peplums that were toughened up with inserts cut from stingray, shark and eel skin. At Versace, Donatella Versace sent out a collection that was a quintessential mix of old and new Versace. The bold star fish and sea horse prints in pastel shades were both in keeping with the iconic Medusa emblem of the house’s past but also spoke to the style of Ms. Versace and all of her blond bombshell power. If this collection was the most forthright in its “mermaid as muse” concept it didn’t rock the boat when it came to design DNA. The collection was pure Versace.
And then there was the magical world of Alexander McQueen. In just three seasons designer Sarah Burton had shown that she knows how to keep the brand’s flame alive without getting burned by becoming just a derivative of the departed designer. Her show was as theatrical as anything that Alexander McQueen himself had done in his heyday. The concept behind this collection- filled with coral encrusted dresses, rippling skirts crafted from hand appliqué shell shaped fabric and textured silk chiffon outfits in an oyster print- was the idea of extreme femininity. Ms. Burton explored the erotic and evocative side of the aquatic world and how women can sometimes be taken over by the clothes they wear. As the models walked the runway in gowns that looks as if they were a floating jellyfish or rolling like the waves of a stormy sea they became one with the design, bonded together in the pursuit of extreme beauty.
The grace of these ocean inspired collections are sure to act like siren’s songs and will lure numerous woman into the deep end of design. So start getting your sea legs early before all of these pieces are sweep away and sold out.