Sunday, January 8, 2012

Catwalk Empire

Feminine looks, strong colours and a return to 1920s-style Gatsby elegance will rule the runway this year.

It was all very well for fashion icon Coco Chanel to say: ''In order to be irreplaceable, one must always be different.'' But it's hard to imagine her wearing clogs, for instance, when everyone else is in Miu Miu glitter pumps.

So what will fashion followers be wearing en masse in 2012? According to Cleo magazine's fashion director, Aileen Marr, there will be a mix of eras - the 1920s, '30s and '90s all get a nod - and bold colours.

''Ladylike is still strong, after years of short body-con dresses, so women will be wearing Peter Pan collars, lace, shift dresses and kitten heels,'' Marr says.

Of course, not all of it will be embraced on these shores. ''The pretty schoolgirl look sounds a bit boring, but Australians will do their own take on it, probably with shorter hemlines and skipping the cardigans for a sleeveless dress to show more skin.''

Spring 2012 Fashion Week in Paris highlighted the schoolgirl look, but where did it originate? British It Girl Alexa Chung had been fashioning her brand of short-skirted teenagerhood for years. The Band of Outsiders is one cult brand picking up the look, with tartan pleated skirts making it into its spring collections.

The Leonardo DiCaprio version of the The Great Gatsby, being filmed now in Sydney, is also having an impact on fashion.

Dropped waists are making a comeback - Camilla & Marc has done them for winter 2012 - as are sunray-pleated skirts and dresses. And all the decadence of that era will hit the mainstream stores, seen in embellished cocktail dresses and ''plenty of bling, like sparkly heels,'' Marr says.

''When shows like Downton Abbey and Boardwalk Empire become successful, designers are influenced and try to capture that period, too.'' And the mood stays feminine for the colder months, with winter florals coming to the fore.

Grazia editor Kellie Hush says: '''Sweetness' was what Miuccia Prada announced immediately after her spring/summer 2012 show. Pretty is back in force: floaty dresses, '50s and '60s silhouettes and head-to-toe florals. Prada's show was very Grease; Louis Vuitton was over-the-top feminine. Slingbacks and mules are back. It is modern femininity once again. And with The Great Gatsby filming, you can be assured Daisy Buchanan style will be everywhere.''

Also important: a signature coat, such as a pea coat or Carnegie coat, which teams up with shift dresses at midi length. That is not to say that it is all for the girly girl. Making an appearance in the '20s-'30s theme are brogues, loafers, man-style suits for women (double-breasted jackets and double-pleated pants) and flat shoes.

Prints are here for a while - think graphic screenprints of the '90s - as well as strong colours. ''There's a '90s hip-hop feel happening and kids will be wearing oversized sweatshirts and bold message prints, like Katharine Hamnett does,'' Marr says. Why the '90s? ''Streetwise is happening, because everything else from punk to the music-festival look has been done to death.''

She predicts Australian buyers will give the bold colours a thumbs-up. ''They love colour and neon, as they're easy to wear in warm climates.''

Magdalena Velevska has married the '20s feel with neon, and the shades that will be popular are orange and teal.

The colder months will bring autumnal colours: hunter greens, pumpkin oranges and rich burgundies that will make their way even into the coloured jeans popular during summer.

Shoe-wise, platforms are on their way out, although heels are not. Women wanting to reach sky heights can still opt for stilettos, but with a more classic feel and pointy toe.

The It bag is still a box bag, started by Celine, and in accessories, women are trying to make their wrists look unique with a long mass of individual chains, via friendship or charm bracelets.

What else to look out for in 2012? Stripes, flared pants and black and white are all making some headway. Sportswear is still going strong: think motocross and hip-hop inspired. Alexander Wang used padding, mesh and stripes in his collection, while Karen Walker showed off oversized baseball caps.

High-top sneakers are back, with designers such as Lanvin and Opening Ceremony doing their own bling version.

Lace, the feminine favourite, won't just be reserved for clothes, but will turn up on accessories such as bags and shoes.


According to Arthur Galan, who designs clothes for women and men under his label Arthur Galan AG, ''Checks will be very important for men: they will be wearing check coats over check shirts to create a mix of textures. There are rich tones for men as well, in the form of precisely cut jackets in bordeaux, midnight and dark emerald.'' The must-have item for men? ''The skivvy in those winter months, for the true gentleman's look: to be worn under a jacket or shirt.'' And in men's shoes, Galan tips ''the return of the chiselled toe, with more of a pointed chisel than what we've seen in the past. The lace-up is still strong, but the ankle boot is the new item.''


Era: 1920s - dropped waists and luxurious dresses.

1990s - oversized T-shirts with graphic lettering.

Colours: orange, teal, red, black and white, bold.

Prints: graphic and florals.

Pants: wide legs, pleated.

Shoes: kitten heels, pointy toes, sparkly.

Fabrics: lace.

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