Designers champion more relaxed summer outfits

ANYONE who has followed fashion for long enough, either through working in the industry or merely as an impartial observer, will know there is rarely anything truly new from season to season. Coming from someone who earns their living in fashion, that is quite an admission, but there you have it. Designers borrow inspiration from the past, from art, from their travels. Summer’s nautical theme returns year after year. And, wouldn’t you know it? Winter loves knitwear.

A model walks the runway for Isabel Garcias spring/summer show during London Fashion Week. Picture: Getty
A model walks the runway for Isabel Garcias spring/summer show during London Fashion Week. Picture: Getty
A model walks the runway for Isabel Garcias spring/summer show during London Fashion Week. Picture: Getty

Yet each season there’s enough of a twist – something slicker and better executed than previous years – to keep things exciting. The skill for the shopper is to navigate their way through the mixed messages, holding on to the wardrobe classics while adding pieces that echo the latest looks, all the while never taking any of it too seriously. It is, after all, just clothes.

So, with that in mind, on what journey will spring/summer 2015 take us? Happily, we find relief from the clashing prints of previous seasons – who really knew how to do that without looking like an explosion in the Dulux warehouse anyway? – and instead find a minimalist, stylish silhouette with suiting, simple primary colours and, for the brave (and pristine), an all-white palette. The bold prints and embellishment are saved for statement accessories – florals, fringing and tassels on bags, gems and armoury on ear pieces.

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“The spring/summer collections are a throwback to the 1970s,” says Anita Barr, group fashion buying director at Harvey Nichols. “There were multi-coloured stripes from Valentino’s archive and clashes of colour at Stella McCartney, which were juxtaposed with minimalist, tailored collections featuring Japanese details from Alexander McQueen, Maison Martin Margiela and Marc by Marc Jacobs.

“I loved the simplicity of this trend, which was largely seen in a monochromatic palette.”

So, for instance, we find obi belts and kimono style all making a nod to the far east. The Row’s wrap kimono tops and dresses are simple perfection, McQueen introduces mandarin collars and Carven takes things literally, with oriental text on its sports luxe runway look.

But all seasons have their casualties, and this year is no exception, with body con falling out of favour. Make way, instead, for a looser, more relaxed way of dressing. Flares are the shape of the season – as seen at Kenzo, Balmain and Coach (which also introduces illustrated tees and sweaters and a cartoon animal print for a more street style than we’re familiar with from the label).

There is draping galore at Chloe and Valentino, in the shape of floor-skimming, floaty maxi dresses, and in tunic-style minis at Isabel Marant.

Leather gets softer every season – Acne has some to-die-for zip dresses and leggings in luscious, strokeable, buttery teal and petrol blue.

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And, if you’re not the type to spill your grande Americano down your front, the all-white look is perfect simplicity. Vionnet’s show was almost exclusively white, adding texture in the shape of silk, chiffon and satin to escape any accusations of mundanity. Heaven forbid!

Haider Ackermann, Isabel Marant, Joseph, Valentino and Emilia Wickstead are all singing from the same pristine hymn sheet. On the high street, Miss Selfridge presents a glorious collection of lace and mesh dresses that have “festival season” and “summer wedding” written all over them.

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But if such purity is only asking for trouble (and, let’s face it, summer in Scotland doesn’t lend itself to an all-white wardrobe), monochrome is back. See? What did I say about nothing new? Givenchy, Victoria Beckham, Balmain and Thakoon are all over the black and white trend. Fortunately for the rest of us, it’s a hard one to get wrong.

“Micro trends to invest in were the mule sandal with a pointy toe, and fringed detailing, particularly on handbags, and denim, which is no longer just for your legs,” says Barr. “We saw the fabric used on shoes at Gianvito Rossi and Charlotte Olympia, as well as more brands showing ready-to-wear collections using the indigo hue.”

Ah denim … it never really goes away either, does it? But if you’re still wearing your skinny jeans, it’s time to bid a fond farewell. Because the catwalks saw denim in all shades and sizes – except skinnies. Chloe had floor-skimming maxi skirts and chambray sweatshirts, Kenzo and Stella dressed it up with smocks and skirts, while street darlings Marques’Almeida featured fitted jackets and oversized jeans with giant turn-ups and loose straps. The lesson, then, is this: go big, go distressed, or go home.

And, as Barr says, every cowboy’s favourite fabric even made an appearance on footwear.

Espadrilles, high fashion trainers, and sliders all fly the flag for summer flats, with the high glam quotient supplied by the heeled mule (popularised by Marilyn Monroe in the 1950s – what goes around comes around). This time, 3.1 Phillip Lim, Sophia Webster and Paul Andrew do the honours, providing show-stopping versions.

But first, we have to get through the rest of winter. Pass me my wellies… n

Twitter: @ruth_lesley

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Ruth Walker is editor-in-chief, Crave