Going to ‘X’-tremes

Extremely kinky Givenchy – Fall 2011 Collection
(All Photos: Firstview.com)

You know the Judy Collins song, “Both sides now”? Well, this has always applied to fashion, and I always start humming it to myself during the collections, because there is never just one theme or trend that emerges from the runways of the international shows. And even when there are overridingly predominant moods and themes, thankfully, there are always, flip sides and choices (multiple choices it seems); sometimes, these exist within the same collection. I always view this dichotomy as representing all the different sides of a woman, and in the best cases, great design should enable her to tap into her multiple personality.

Extremely red, tactile & extravagant Ralph Rucci – Fall 2011 Collection

Without sounding like a shrink, let’s just say that most of us are probably a bit ‘schizophrenic’ and ‘bi- polar’; (okay – so I’ll admit that I am, and I love to have fun with it). But is it just me, or did these extreme ends of the spectrum seem even more pronounced, exaggerated, and well, ‘X’ treme this time around (and I mean that literally!) Talk about going from the sublime to the ridiculous (or visa versa, depending on your “take”).

Extremely monastic Hermes – Fall 2011 Collection

To wit: there were suggestive, kinky clothes that almost left nothing to the imagination, but there were also offerings so demure and monastically covered up from head to toe, the models looked like members of a religious order. There were designs that were ‘textbook’ ‘man repellers’ (check out http://www.manrepeller.com/), but at the same time, there were plenty that could best be described as alluringly provocative and seductive.

Extremely oversized Stella McCartney – Fall 2011 Collection

There were styles so body obscuring, bulky and oversized, it oft times appeared the models had collectively gained weight (of course they were really just wearing what could be described as high fashion ‘fat suits’), but there were also body conscious, second skin numbers; there were flamboyantly ostentatious uber luxurious furs juxtaposed against relatively ‘plain Jane cloth coats (I always think of Richard Nixon describing wife Pat’s cloth coat as a “modest Republican” cloth coat); there was supremely urban, streetwise, utilitarian fashion juxtaposed against moments of completely fantastical flights of fancy.

Extremely plaid Thom Brown – Fall 2011 Collection

There were whimsical, funny, and humorous styles (though truly, who wants to spend into the thousands of dollars just to have a laugh?). And yes, there were just as many, if not more, that looked bookwormishly serious. There many items blatantly borrowed from the boys (not just boy meets girl but boy-oh-boy!), and others that were almost exaggeratedly feminine and all girl.

Extremely delicate Marchesa – Fall 2011 Collection

There was ‘clean and mean’ minimal, and there was completely over the top, and to the max; fuzzy wuzzy, highly textural fabrics, and flat, one dimensional weaves; barely there soft as a whisper nude skin tones and screamingly loud high impact colors and patterns (sometimes used in one outfit to heighten the effect). There was optic white, and (lots of) noir. Flat, mannish, heavy oxfords co existed with highly seductive come hither sky high heels; pants so skinny they resembled leggings, but also, there were pants so long and full, they looked like skirts. I think you got the picture.

Extremely nude Michael Kors- Fall 2011 Collection

But alongside the manic, schizophrenic flip sides of fashion on display, this past season was nothing if not about the element of surprise. Hey, what can you expect from a season in which the Paris ready to wear shows kick off with the news that John Galliano was promptly fired from Dior because of alleged drunken, anti Semitic rantings (I guess you can say, ‘anti-Semitism is the new black?’), and instead of Mr. Galliano walking down the runway in his characteristically plumed and costumed splendor, when the Dior Show ended, out came the white lab coat clad members of the atelier. And later on in the week, Christophe Decarnin was a ‘no show’ at his Balmain show (WWD cited the reasons as an “apparent breakdown”.)

Extremely chic and streamlined Celine – Fall 2011 Collection

Still, who could imagine that the essential basic black turtleneck would ever be replaced by the optic white turtleneck, or that the models would seem to have collectively put on pounds? (of course, they didn’t, they were just ‘hiding’ beneath bulky oversized body obscuring designs). Or that the models on Karl Lagerfeld’s Chanel runway would, well, be made to look just like him (minus the silver white hair and ponytail of course). Or that Alber Elbaz, the king of feminine flourishes and embellishments, would go uncharacteristically subdued and minimal this time around? Or that floral prints (the kind that many plugged in fashion insiders would normally ‘poo poo’) would be embraced by such influential, edgy designers such as Nicolas Guesquiere for Balenciaga, Ricardo Tisci for Givenchy, and Raf Simons for Jil Sander?

Extremely mixed to the max Oscar de la Renta – Fall 2011 Collection

Or that the lowly poncho (like the ones we wore at summer camp to ward off the inclement weather) would be given haute couture like status? Or that white shoes and boots could be made to actually look appealing (well, not everywhere but on some runways). Or that the ubiquitous boyfriend jacket of many seasons, would be replaced by the boyfriend coat? Or that Marc Jacobs would once again, not only start his show on time, but 10 minutes early? (Almost guaranteeing that next season, everyone will show up early and will have to wait for two hours for the show to begin). Oh, the joys of fashion.

-Marilyn Kirschner

Marilyn Kirschner

I am a long time fashion editor with 40+ years of experience. As senior market of Harper's Bazaar for 21 years I met and worked with every major fashion designer in the world and covered all of the collections in Paris, London, Milan and New York. I was responsible for overall content, finding and pulling in the best clothes out there, and for formulating ideas and stories.

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