The Spring/Summer Ready-To-Wear 2016 Collections: To the Max!

The Spring/Summer 2016 collections have finally come to an end in Paris, and I’ve made some observations about the 4 city month long marathon of runway shows and presentations. I always point out that fashion is contradictory, fickle, and cyclical, and while there are exceptions to every rule, right now, we seem to be ensconced in a “more is more” period. Of course, what this means is that the flip side of the coin- pared down minimalism- will look all the more appealing. (Although, who says one has to negate the other? There’s room for both!)

Coincidentally, several weeks ago, I finally got to watch the Iris Apfel documentary (sadly, her husband Carl, who co-starred, passed away not too long ago, at the age of 100). I had the privilege of interviewing the woman who is literally a poster child for an ebullient more-is-more aesthetic, back in 2006 for our Masters of Fashion Series, and I was once again reminded of just how appealing and fabulous her irreverent, highly personal, and expressive put togethers are. And how ‘right on’ they seem.

In any event, it’s been hard not to notice a renewed focus on surface decoration, and ornamentation in the recent collections. This playful, joyful, wholehearted embrace of a quirky, eclectic maximalism was exemplified by, among others, Prada, Marc Jacobs, Loewe, Dries Van Noten (he is a master at sumptuous fabrication and colorization), Rodarte (their best collection in a while), and Gucci (Alessandro Michele has truly come into his own). Forget mix and match. It’s all about mix and clash (clashing colors, clashing patterns, clashing textures, clashing references). Some of the best (or most interesting) looks were those comprised of rather disparate elements put together in unexpected ways (one might not necessarily think they would work, but they somehow do). It’s all about the play of hard against soft, sheer against opaque, streetwise against couture, fantastical against reality based, vintage against modern, and masculine against feminine.

Speaking of feminine, if your idea of heaven is lounging around in your pj’s or nightgown 24/7, you’re in luck. Quite frankly, the lingerie department might be the best place to look next season. (That and your local notions store, like MJ Trim, which enable you to DIY with decorative tassels, sequins, pom poms and ribbons, so that you can make your own bows).

Straight –from-the-boudoir-lingerie dressing was seen at Celine, Givenchy, Calvin Klein, and Balenciaga where the otherwise delicate pieces were counterbalanced and offset with streetwise, utilitarian, or menswear touches (cargo pants, trench coats, tuxedos, mannish trousers). Perhaps nobody did this better or more convincingly than Phoebe Philo, who actually made lace trimmed satin camisoles and slips look daytime (if not worktime) ready, graphic, and far from traditionally provocative or erotic.

It also left me wondering if there was any lace left on the face of the earth. Alexander Wang, who showed nothing but flat white lace slippers on the Balenciaga runway, presented his most fragile collection to date. Played out in palette cleansing shades of white, it was also his swan song. And if you want to know what the fabled label might look like in the near future, the best thing to do is check out the well fabricated, “deceptively simple”, deconstructed wardrobe staples, sweatshirts, floral printed cotton jersey prairie dresses, and sturdy outsized outerwear (with an un- bourgeois gritty, urban streetwise sensibility), that have become the calling cards of cult label Vetements. Its head designer, 34 year old Georgian Demna Gvasalia, was just named as Balenciaga’s new artistic director (which is not a bad fit given his embrace of sculptural, often exaggerated silhouettes). While Nicolas Guesquiere’s fabulous leather moto jackets and coats were well tailored and not oversized, one could call his collection for Louis Vuitton urban and streetwise and the designer’s inventive use of embellishments, graphic color blocking, and patchwork also looked somewhat futuristic, hard edged, and punkish.

What else? Pants were shown in dizzying variety, but so were skirts, (pleats please!) And of course, length is not an issue. Can’t decide which you prefer? Wear both! At Chanel, Karl layered pants under skirts and dresses. It’s the year of the bias cut slip dress (short or long) and skirt suits have been resurrected thanks to Miuccia Prada and Karl Lagerfeld, who apparently decided he has had enough of the only shoe he showed last season- the iconic and bourgeois sling back two toned cap toe pump. This time around, the renowned quick change artist accessorized with Modish silver open toe booties and sporty flatform sandals in silver and black. Braids have also been resurrected and were seen at Proenza Schouler, Thom Browne, and Celine, where they looked great with a red lip and bold hoop earrings. They were also shown on the runway at Valentino where the award winning design duo embraced a cross cultural, African/tribal vibe. FYI, I couldn’t help but notice how beautiful and graceful the models looked, sauntering down the runway in their flat and low heeled sandals. Nothing looks more démodé to me, than watching a model fall to the floor while navigating the runway in her precariously sky high heels. And the customer obviously agrees, as witnessed by scores of fashion show attendees who eschewed stilettos for something more grounded. I guess you could say being able to walk is the new black.

 Dries Van Noten collection

That being said, emergency rooms and orthopedic surgeons will be very busy what with all the gals falling off their sometimes unwieldy flatforms and platforms that have been showing up all over spring 2016 runways.

But regardless, it’s now official: one no longer needs to choose between being comfortable and being well turned out. Long gone are the days when a high heel is thought to be the only appropriate choice of footwear for evening, (or the requirement for being well dressed, and fashionable). Designers proposed all manner of unapologetically sensible flats, rubber soled sneakers, oxfords, loafers, sandals, and boots for day and night (at Saint Laurent, Hedi Slimane accessorized almost everything- including sequined and filmy metallic slip dresses – with a rubber Wellie).

The great thing about fashion is that it enables us to wear different hats and tap into the different sides of our personalities. Notwithstanding Thom Browne’s argument for affecting a uniform (which assuredly would make life a lot simpler)  I dare say that most of us select our clothes and ensembles after factoring in the weather, the time of day, the occasion, and one’s mood. I view a perfect wardrobe as being well balanced (much like a diet). In the same way that you don’t want to overdose on any one thing (lettuce, meat, or dessert), it’s important to have a little bit of this and a little bit of that in our closets.  The bottom line is that variety is the spice of life, and there’s a time and place for (almost) everything.  To better prove my point, I thought I’d match some of the ensembles that were presented during this past month, with the scenarios and occasions they might just be just perfect for:


You’re an untraditional bride.


You’re taking the L train to Brooklyn.

Marc Jacobs

You’re attending Opening Night at the Metropolitan Opera (or La Scala).


You’re toying around with the idea of joining a convent.

Dolce & Gabbana

You’re vacationing in Italy (and you’re hitting all your favorite towns)

Alexander Wang

You’re married to Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer or Andy Murray and you are watching him play at Wimbledon, the French Open, or the U.S. Open.

Michael Kors

You’re Tonne Goodman and want to tweak your daily uniform


You have an appointment with your accountant (and need to convince him that you are on an austerity budget and spend no money on clothing)


You’ve overslept, don’t have time to change, and need to get to work immediately.

Alexander Wang

It’s early in the morning, you just got out of bed, and you have to dash out for a carton of milk.


You’re headed to the airport for a transatlantic flight and you’re not a sweat suit kind of gal.


 You’ve been invited to the opening reception for a major exhibition at a modern art museum. Coincidentally, the VIP Opening Reception for “Frank Stella: A Retrospective” (which runs from October 30 – February 7 at the Whitney), is Wednesday evening, October 28th.


The invitation reads, “Creative Black Tie”.

– 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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