Less Is More
The overarching theme of the Spring/Summer 2020 runways was a return to basics. Perhaps as an antidote to past season’s maximalism, this season’s simple, pared-back elegance was seen through leading fashion designers who placed an emphasis on timeless style over trends and the individual wearer over the clothing. Prada and Gucci traded in their bold graphics for classic slim tailoring that delicately traced the figure. Pierpaolo Piccioli presented a meditation on the white shirt at Valentino. Victoria Beckham oozed sophistication with flattering suits and easy-to-wear dresses. Chloé embraced French femininity grounded in believable daywear. And Givenchy honed its tailoring and flou with a ‘90s minimalist edge.
’70s, ‘80s, ’90s, ‘00s — pick your nostalgia for the season. Throwback eras not long past were at the heart of many of this season’s collections, often with nods to iconic figures and zeitgeists of the time. Tom Ford’s New York subway show made reference to the famous 1965 photo of Andy Warhol and Edie Sedgwick emerging from a manhole; Louis Vuitton displayed Belle-Époque-by-way-of-‘70s-Biba with VHS tape bags referencing classic films; Tory Burch channeled ‘80s style icon Princess Diana while Proenza Schouler found its ‘80s muse in Patrick Bateman; Balmain remixed ‘90s and ‘00s pop stars with a salute to Beyonce’s “Crazy In Love” tracksuit; and Versace broke the internet again with a redux of J.Lo’s famous 2000 Jungle Dress.
Though long overdue, the fashion industry witnessed a tectonic shift in sustainability and eco-conscious efforts for Spring/Summer 2020. LVMH and Kering both committed to new sustainability targets for their luxury fashion houses and many designers staged their first carbon-neutral runway shows (Gabriela Hearst, Gucci, Burberry, to name a few). As for fashion design itself, the topic of the environment manifested as nature-centric prints and natural or up-cycled materials. Marine Serre’s collection envisioned climate change apocalypse with a focus on all-black pieces made from recycled plastic raincoats (50% of her collection was made from up-cycled materials); Christopher Kane’s “Eco-Sexual” collection was about people who love nature, featuring floral and planet-print dresses; and Dior’s botany-centric show featured exquisite raffia pieces hosted in a tree-filled runway whose plant species are to be replanted around Paris. For innovation in textiles, Stella McCartney presented her most sustainable collection yet with more than 75% of materials being eco-friendly, Gabriela Hearst presented a dress made entirely from fringes from up-cycled silk prints from her past seasons, and Sarah Burton repurposed lace, organza and tulle from prior Alexander McQueen seasons.
Memoirs of Antiquity
Heritage! Opera! Silhouette! For Spring/Summer 2020, many designers dug deep into the chronicles of fashion history for references of personal heritage and cultural figures. There was a turn of the 19th century romanticism at Erdem, whose muse was Italian-born WWII heroine Tina Modotti whose later life in Mexico City flourished on the runway as vividly-printed, ruffle-tiered gowns, as well as Demna Gvasalia’s dramatic Balenciaga finale ballgowns, inspired by Cristobal Balenciaga’s early silhouettes based on Spanish paintings. There was high European couture fantasy at Comme des Garçons, whose elaborate silhouettes and baroque textiles drew inspiration from the Vienna Opera and Elizabethan era. Then there was the magnificent Dries Van Noten and Christian Lacroix collaboration at Paris’ Opera Bastille, which boasted richly embroidered ensembles of theatrical exuberance. At Simone Rocha, the Irish tradition of Wren Day inspired rustic floral prints and raffia sashes of folklore fantasy, while Rick Owens honoured his immigrant Mexican mother through aztec-inspired headpieces and sculptural silhouettes.
The most tactile trend of the season goes to crochet, which flourished on the runway in everything from flirty holiday pieces to sublime evening gowns. Exquisitely refined hand craftsmanship ooh-ed and aah-ed at Jonathan Anderson’s Loewe; elaborate raffia and crochet gowns stunned mid-show at Jil Sander and Stella McCartney; and leather macrame and knit panels updated trench coats and flowing silhouettes at Gabriela Hearst. There was a definitive holiday mood at Fendi and Oscar de la Renta, and a feeling of American homecoming via Altuzarra’s heirloom crochet knits, whereas at Dior and Simone Rocha, straw and raffia artisanship gave a crafty update on signature silhouettes.
Trench coats were on practically every Spring/Summer 2020 runway. Junya Watanabe dedicated almost an entire show to the classic silhouette, deconstructing and reconstructing it in variations of dresses, skirts, tops and vests, as did Burberry, whose perennial house icon appeared this season as hybrid silhouettes fused with utilitarian codes. Heritage houses such as Gucci, Celine, Dior and Louis Vuitton were loyal to the original template — a loosely-belted, double-breasted coat in quintessential beige —with their own take on classic tailoring. Brands such as Givenchy, Fendi and Tod’s updated the timeless silhouette with unique fabrication, while Versace, Sacai, McQueen and Y/Project played with proportion and asymmetry.