Celebrating the Dark Side of Fashion

Balenciaga Maxi Godet Dress in Black $2390
Photo: balenciaga.com

The Celts believed that the boundary between the living world and the otherworld became blurred on the night of October 31, causing the spirits of the dead to return to the earthly realm. It’s a special occasion to remember all the saints, martyrs, faithful, and relatives who have departed and a day to honor spirits and ward off the less desirable ones.

Area Fall 2022 Ready-to-Wear
Photo by Daniele Oberrauch for Gorunway.com

Through the years, people have dressed in extremely scary costumes to honor the Halloween tradition and scare away demonic spirits. But who needs costumes when we have fashion?

Thom Browne Spring 2023 Ready to Wear
Photo by Filippo Fior for Gorunway.com

Quite frankly, some of the scariest things I’ve seen recently have been on the runways. During this past fashion month, I kept thinking, “Halloween has come early this year.”

Yohji Yamamoto black cotton ruched crinoline maxi dress spring 2008 $14,280
Photo: 1stdibs.com

Halloween was historically and inseparably related to death. For some, it’s the day to try to look as witchy as possible and dress in black, the symbol of darkness and death. But many of us don’t need the excuse of a holiday to wear fashion’s favorite color.

Comme des Garcons Noir Kei Ninomiya Crossover Strap Leather Harnass, $1300
Photo: farfetch.com

Black looks better than ever. There are many exceptional black creations in the market, both vintage and new. Some of the best are infused with a moody, sinister, mysterious, Gothic beauty that syncs with Halloween’s dark foreboding feeling and the current zeitgeist.

Balenciaga Hourglass Coat in Black $3750,
Photo: balenciaga.com

Almost no designer is darker than Demna Gvasalia, who catapults Balenciaga into a postmodern era where street meets couture, and comfortable fashion is high fashion. The designer works closely with the house archives, re-imagining the lifelong work of ‘The Master’ couturier Cristóbal Balenciaga but much of Gvasalia’s approach still stems from his initial purpose of creating subversive fashion.

Rick Owens Mesh Panel Draped Velvet Gown, $2190
Photo: nordstrom.com

One of fashion’s great iconoclasts, Rick Owens, is often called “The Father of Goth.”Rick’s designs are at once otherworldly, beautiful, and brutal.

Rick Owens Oversize Down Cape Coat, $4575
Photo: nordstrom.com

Owens’ avant-garde designs toe the line between clothing and art. His collections are inspired by everything from brutalist architecture to Russian ballet. How many designers can make a puffer coat as dramatic and compelling as Rick’s?

Simone Rocha Cropped Bustier Leather Biker Jacket, $2195
Photo: farfetch.com

Other creators who have routinely tapped into the darker side of beauty are Olivier Theyskens, Jean Paul Gaultier, John Galliano, Simone Rocha, Gareth Pugh, and avant-garde Japanese designers Rei Kawakubo, Junya Watanabe, Yohji Yamamoto, and Noir Kei Ninomiya.

Comme des Garcons Noir Kei Ninomiya Corset Style Tulle Gown, $1207
Photo: farfetch.com

An article in “W” Magazine by Kristen Bateman on October 11, 2022, was titled, “Meet Noir Kei Ninomiya, the Experimental King of Dark Fashion.” As Bateman points out, Kei Ninomiya says he doesn’t just like black. He IDOLIZES black and is devoted to it.

Alexander McQueen Joan of Arc 1998 Runway Suit, $6470
Photo: 1stdibs.com

Alexander McQueen was fascinated with history, hauntings, and ancestral curses, and he always drew inspiration from the dark and twisted. A gothic vision was always at the heart of Lee’s “Savage Beauty” aesthetic, and Sarah Burton continues the tradition.

More than anything, Halloween is a celebration of mystery, magic, and superstition. Masks are traditionally worn to avoid being recognized by ghosts. Back in the day, some would mask up when they left their homes after dark so the ghosts would mistake them for fellow spirits.

MME. ELSA MASK, $145
Photo: mmemink.com

Jan Haedrich, aka Mme. Mink was inspired by the glamour of Truman Capote’s Black and White Parties and the UBER Chic style of Elsa Peretti when she created this “ELSA” mask. Priced at $145, it is for sale at mmemink.com.

Lunch at the Ritz Spider Web Earrings, $485,
Photo: 1stdibs.com

Spiders are believed to have assisted witches in casting spells, and eating a black spider between two slices of buttered bread is thought to give a witch great power. Some medieval superstitions say that if you see a spider on Halloween, it’s the spirit of a dead loved one watching you.

These “Lunch At The Ritz” earrings are five inches long. They feature vibrant gold hardware spider webs with wrapped and draped clear crystals with four creepy crawling spiders. Priced at $485, they are for sale at 1stdibs.com.

They are perfect for those times you want to light up the night.

Latest Comments:

  1. You could say Rucci is devoted to beauty but really he’s devoted to truth and beauty is how he finds…

  2. I couldn’t agree with you more. Ralph will bring back beauty to fashion. Enough with the sideshow attractions.

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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