What do a 15th century martyr, a South Korean film star and a pop art pin-up have in common? The S/S16 collections...
Part of the beauty, the excitement, of fashion lies in seeing what influences will be mined and appropriated each season. From the obscure to the obvious, the thrill of witnessing a label's reviving of the past into something that defines the zeitgeist, to alchemise the ugly into the desirable and convert the cerebral into the wearable, never tires. And nothing helps a designer crystallise their vision for a collection like an inspirational poster girl, who encapsulates the spirit they wish to emulate. With that in mind, we shed light on some of the new season's unexpected style muses.
Gucci: Madeleine de Scudéry
With his elegantly eclectic aesthetic, Alessandro Michele has reinvigorated Gucci, and seduced the fashion world in the process. His magpie approach was seen in its fully glory in the faux-vintage exuberance of the S/S16 collection, which took in everything from lurex ruffles to embroidered flowers, jewel toned lace to trompe l’oeil collars, all topped off with turbans and Elton John-worthy glasses. The result? Something between a delightfully bonkers granny and psychedelic geek... And utterly irresistible. Michele – who has admitted to drawing on the carefree glamour of European aristocrats – this season took inspiration from 17th century author Madeleine de Scudéry and her La Carte de Tendre, a road map of desire depicted in an imagined world of love. This wasn’t just translated in the deliberately exoticised, overly romanticised mood of the collection but the map also popped up as a print. If anyone’s making clothes to fall in love with – and in – it’s Michele.
Alexander McQueen: Joan of Arc
Let there be light! Sarah Burton presented an easier, softer rendering of the Alexander McQueen aesthetic – albeit it one that paid homage to the house’s preoccupation with historical and religious codes – with the S/S16 collection. She cited the Hugenot Protestant refugees who fled France in the 17th century to settle in Spitalfields, and who were renowned for their weaving talent, as her inspiration (side note: Lee McQueen claimed to be a descendent of these Hugenots). Both victims of religious persecution, it’s tempting to draw parallels between the Hugenots and Joan of Arc. Certainly one can see visual echoes of the 15th century martyr in the collection; the silver harnesses draped across the body, the slinky mesh dresses that call to mind chainmail, the corseted bodices with their hints of armour. Above all, however, it’s the undeniable strength underpinning the deeply romantic collection that best pays tribute to St. Joan.
Jeremy Scott: Lucky Lulu Blonde
Well it was never going to be quiet and understated now was it? For his S/S16 collection, perennial club kid Jeremy Scott presented a flashy, unapologetically hyper take on Americana, fizzing with sartorial E-numbers. With 60s B-movies on his mind, Scott also played homage to Lucky Lulu Blonde, artist Mel Ramos’s 1965 exaggerated reimagining of the Lucky Strike pin-up. One can easily picture Lucky poised between kitchen and club, sporting the collection’s hyper hued sweater and pencil skirt pairings, paillette-strewn A-line dresses and cartoon intarsia knits. That Lucky isn’t real doesn’t diminish the impact; in Scott’s plastic fantastic world artificiality isn’t so much tolerated as championed. The show’s unapologetically youthful glamour was hammered home with the designer’s casting of the Hadid sisters, the Beverly Hills bred bombshells of the moment, to open and close the show.
Louis Vuitton: Doona Bae
Nicolas Ghesquière has always had a thing for actresses; Jennifer Connelly, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Catherine Deneuve, Michelle Williams and Alicia Vikander are among the coterie of film stars who pop up on the French designer’s arm, front row at his shows and in the campaigns. For the audacious S/S16 Louis Vuitton show – which journeyed to “the frontiers of the digital era” – it was a lesser known, but no less captivating starlet who captured Ghesquière’s imagination: South Korean actress Doona Bae, perhaps best known for her roles on the Wachowski brothers’ Cloud Atlas and Sense8. Having bombarded his Instagram with pictures of her in true fan-boy fashion, Bae’s influence – in particular her Cloud Atlas character – could be felt in the collection’s cyberpunk, sci-fi aesthetic reinforced by references to Kai Wai’s 2046, the anime series Evangelion and Minecraft. In Ghesquière’s hands the monogrammed waistcoats, New Romantic blouses, creeper soled sandals, futuristic festival-style dresses and that baby pink moto, weren’t just acceptable, they were a season highlight.
Rodarte: Elizabeth Barrett Browning
On first glance, Rodarte’s brilliant S/S16 collection – with its lamé suiting, Mongolian shrugs, trailing skinny scarves and ruffled blouses – owes more to the world of 70s glam rock than Victorian poetry. And yet, designers Kate and Laura Mulleavy drew unlikely inspiration from Elizabeth Barrett Browning, immersing themselves in her poetry (as well as Emily Dickinson’s and Leonard Cohen’s music) when designing the collection, seeing how this affected their own creativity. It rather makes sense; the Mulleavys' dreamy, Californian world has always been a poetic realm (sometimes at the expense of their commercial prowess). This wasn’t a literal reimagining of Barrett Browning but rather resulted in a renewed focus on that exquisite craftsmanship which still had that homespun quality that’s so distinctly Rodarte. Those beautiful, romantic lace, velvet and embroidered dresses, for example, were crafted with the same care as a touching, elegantly considered verse. To borrow some words from Barrett Browning’s most famous poem, “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.”