Spring 2018: Fashion Goes to Extremes

The shows for spring 2018 are finally over and what began as seeds in New York fully crystallized in Paris, as is always the case. The overriding mood has been described as upbeat, happy, optimistic, joyful: a counterbalance and antidote to the turbulent, scary, violent times we are living in (particularly relevant right now given the horrific mass shooting in Las Vegas). A sense of movement and ease ran through the collections and there was an incredible sense of airy lightness and weightlessness with an emphasis on transparency (tulle is the fabric of the season).

There was an exuberant use of color from pastels to stronger hues (not to mention a dominance of pink in all its shades). Colors were often mixed together, clashing at times. There was an explosion of pattern (flowers and floral prints, fruits and vegetables, animal prints, polka dots, stripes, plaids, checks, painterly splatter prints, cartoon prints, prints inspired by artists, scarf prints, conversation prints such as dollar signs and newspaper prints), and pattern mixes (collaged and patch worked). There was couture like handwork and craftsmanship, artisanal touches, fringe, pom poms, tassels, ruffles, flounces, and lots of shine by way of sequins, beads, paillettes.

Dresses oft times seemed to rule the runways; especially t shirt dresses, slip dresses, tent dresses and dresses with asymmetrical hemlines as well as bubble skirts (poufs). There were maillots (French cut maillots and maillots with cover ups – some quite glamorous), robes, and pajamas. There was lots of lace, lace trim and a plethora of beautiful blouses (many Victorian inspired). There were streetwise, utilitarian, functional designs (cargo pants and shorts, parkas, windbreakers, anoraks) and athletic sport shoes (athleisure is not going away anytime soon), embellished and bejeweled shoes, Mary Janes, pointy toed flats and kitten heels.

While there was a plethora of comfortable, easy to walk in footwear, there were also high heeled sandals and pumps. And there were boots with a range of heels (biker boots, Western inspired cowboy boots, fierce over the knee boots, and clear transparent boots). There were so many socks and knee highs shown, it’s obvious the hosiery industry will be happy next season. Punkish studs, nailheads, grommets and spikes (which looked like they could easily serve as dangerous weapons) were used as decoration and as accessories. There were mismatched statement making earrings, diamante brooches, and a plethora of bags from the most teeny tiny and impractical, to those capacious enough to hold your entire life. Logo bags have also made a comeback. Perhaps one’s best accessory is having a pair of gorgeous gams owing to all the abbreviated hemlines, shorts, bicycle shorts, and yes, hot pants.

Speaking of hot, sex positively oozed from so many runways the collections could have been dubbed “Sex and the Cities”. While it was subtle at times, it was also quite overt in some instances. There were sheer, see through fabrics that left nothing or very little to the imagination, and the employment of underwear as outerwear: bras, corsets, negligees (Miuccia Prada was just one designer who proved you could wear them in a feminist way). FYI, lingerie companies and lingerie departments should also be very happy. Tom Ford, who is always on a mission to de-prude (and shock) the world, opened NYFW with a collection that was in your face colorful, shiny, and SEXY (deeply plunging necklines, high cut maillots, tiny roll cuff shorts, glittery briefs beneath extra short t shirt dresses, spiked stiletto heels). He used the show as an opportunity to unveil his new fragrance, Fucking Fabulous (male servers at the party wore nothing but boxers). Hugh Hefner, who passed away on Wednesday September 27th at the age of 91, would surely have approved.

Indeed, the timing of the death of this highly controversial man (who was at the forefront of the sexual revolution and an advocate for freedom of expression and freedom of sexuality but was also seen – and rightly so – as a misogynist) was not lost on me. Fashion Month was winding down and the shows were firmly under way in Paris, and there was a highly charged sexual undercurrent, not to mention some bondage and kinky fetishist undertones. But that’s only part of the story. Fortunately, the runways also had their share of modest, covered up, ascetic (if not virginal and innocent) designs, and some great tailoring (even though they might not be that easy to find, they did exist).

There may be several overarching themes and trends each season, but there will always be flip sides to the fashion coin, some, wildly shifting from one extreme to the other. Here are some notable examples of fashion’s bipolarity from spring 2018:

Left: Simone Rocha: Virginal, innocent, chaste; Right: Helmut Lang:  Kinky.
Left: Balmain:  Highly decorative, unabashedly sexy; Right: Jil Sander: Unapologetic-ally androgynous.

Left: Versace:  Conventionally pretty; Right: Rick Owens: Strangely beautiful.
Left: Ellery: Classic trench; Right: Maison Margiela: Trench coat sliced, diced, mirrored.
Left: Sies Marjan: Bashful, barely there, whisper pink; Right: Saint Laurent: Positively shocking!
Left: Fenty x Puma: Utilitarian and geared for the gritty reality of urban life; Right: Valentino Utilitarian AND out of this world.
Left: Moschino: Women portrayed as delicate, beautiful flowers: Right: Prada: Militant feminists, tough as nails (or nail heads).
Left: Michael Kors Typically spring-like;  Right: Gucci: More like winter.
Left: Martin Grant: A swoosh of fringe; Right: Calvin Klein: Mop like.
Left: Ralph Lauren: Classic menswear a la Ralph; Right: Thom Browne: Menswear reimagined in tulle.
Left: Alexander McQueen: Floral strewn dresses that make you dream; Right: Comme des Garcons: Floral prints that make you think.
Left: Saint Laurent: Legs swathed in tall feathered boots; Right: Chanel: Legs in clear view.

In fashion, to every action there is a reaction. There are always contradictions, wide variances and exceptions to every rule. While the above examples may have illustrated the extremes, needless to say, there are also happy mediums (but they’re not as interesting to photograph lol). The bottom line is that there is wide variety and literally something for everyone; unless of course, you are strapped for cash because none of this will come cheap. Then again, there’s a way around that too. Keep posted for my “Cheap Thrills” columns!

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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