The Big Picture: A look Ahead to Fall 2014

David Wolfe
(Click on images for larger views)

It’s still summer and we have not even gotten into fall 2013. But we in the fashion world are always trying to foretell the future and read tea leaves regardless of whether its an attempt to predict “The Next Big Thing” (upscale and rarefied or mainstream), or to figure out what will be the most commercial and successful of the trends. Indisputably, one of the most seasoned, well respected, entertaining, and highly quotable fashion, color, and trend forecasters is veteran, David Wolfe. The Wall Street Journal has hailed him as “one of the fashion industry’s most authoritative sharpshooters”; Earnshaw’s observed, “when he talks, a lot of important people listen” and The Fashion Reporter called him “the most astute trend reporter in the business”.

David certainly has the impressive resume to bely his expertise: he was creative director at I.M. International, one of the world’s first fashion forecasting and consulting firms; he went on to found and manage The Fashion Service, a trend forecasting service; and since 1990, has served as creative director of The Doneger Group ( the fashion industry’s leading source of global trend intelligence, and an “essential resource to the retail manufacturing and fashion communities”. I have not attended one of the company’s trend reports in many years, so I decided to check out Thursday’s, “The Big Picture, Fall 2014: A New World” put together and presented by David Wolfe.

Speaking in the decidedly informal, impromptu manner he is known for, and dressed in a vivid pink blazer over a black shirt, David backed up his observations with a video presentation, comprised mainly of runway images from the international fall/winter 2013 ready-to-wear shows (held last September and October), and the Haute Couture fall/winter 2013, shown in Paris early this month. He divided his approximately one hour talk into four distinct sections.

Living in a New World

Iris Van Herpen Haute Couture

David began with the observation, “we are living in a new world, it’s a new ballgame, and the fashion world isn’t the only world, even if we in the fashion world think it is. Fashion doesn’t fascinate the world as it used to, and nothing in fashion is as interesting as what’s going on elsewhere. But, it is a reflection of the world and of society”.

He talked about (and illustrated), a number of fascinating technological advances in transportation (a new Mercedes without a steering wheel and a nifty James Bond worthy boat); living (cohabiting with robots); shopping (new experiences and conveniences such as the ability to see how an outfit will look on you without having to actually try it on; downloading your design for a t shirt and getting it made in moment). Then he went on to talk about how this relates to fashion: Sci Fi effects (colors and fabrics from the future); Tech Chic (creative digital prints); extraordinary prints (“if it can be imagined it can be printed”); extraordinary floral prints (“old ideas made new again”).

Iris van Herpen and Rem D Koolhaas collaborated to create 3D printed shoes that look like tree roots

He showed us images of the first 3D articulated printed dress recently worn by Dita Von Teese, and the futuristic but “un wearable” designs created by Iris van Herpen ( The Dutch fashion designer interned at Alexander McQueen and started her own Haute Couture fashion label, and is now showing during Paris Haute Couture Week.

But the result of all of this, can be fashion backlash, or burnout, where the customer will yearn for fashion that is more real and more related:

Fashion for a Real World!

 It’s all about low profile elegance, grown up good taste and a practical yet polished and calmed down approach to fashion. What are the symbols of this? He noted that hemlines are going down (“highly polished adult elegance”), though some designers continue to go to extremes in lengths within one collection, thereby further confusing the customer and scaring her into not buying (she is saying, “how am I supposed to make up my mind when the designers can’t?”) Other hallmarks: a return to elegant dresses, the reality based pantsuit, tailored suits; and soigne evening wear (“good taste glamour”).

As for color, he noted that we’re in a black & white moment but while “back & white have staying power”, he predicts a welcome return to color thanks to surprising color combinations  He noted that Yohji Yamamoto used shocking color combinations for fall 2013, and said he didn’t even think Yohji knew there was anything “other than black out there”. In terms of neutrals, which everyone has lots of in their closets, it’s all about an expanded palette for subtle shadings, the employment of feminized, nearly naked neutrals (cosmetic colors), and the use of unexpected spring like pastels for fall. And finally, the resurgence in grown up lady bags (even among young women), is indicative of the renewed “highly polished adult elegance”.

Streamlined Style…Modern glamour!

There is an unmistakable appeal to a simplified wardrobe comprised of clean, chic, simple, flat shapes, without detail or embellishment. It is wearable and ageless. On his hit list: Simple dresses with simple lines; simple tunics (David noted that “everyone looks good in a tunic, and sweater knit tunics are understandable and flattering to all”); extended sleeveless (no sleeves for bodices cut wide at the shoulders); and clean chic accessories, defined by strong shapes with refined detailing.

Sculptural Shapes…Silhouette Shifts!

Balenciaga fall/winter 2013

Under this large inclusive heading, category, David made note of “melon” and kimono sleeves; rounded shoulders; the new jacket (defined by curvaceous lines); sharp, snappy, defined shoulders (but NOT the exaggeration of the 80’s); Dior’s New Look Skirts “long and full is renewed”; lady like clutch bags (soft or structured); organic, free form accessories; extravagant effects (elite elegance: “more is not enough for most people, but this is an extravagance that smacks of old money, high class luxury, and not the Kardashians”).

 Also decorative fabrics with fancy surface interest; dramatic textural contrasts; toned down twinkle; muted metallics (“gold and silver in the dark”); metallic accessories (“a touch of metallic through accessories”); special furs (“color creating special effects” which will make real furs look like faux furs and will ensure that faux furs will continue to be important); broadtail (“the best investment: a “new again” fashion rage,); luxury skins (fashion’s ongoing obsession with leather shows no signs of letting up); feathers (“floating frivolity”); velvet (“lush, plush and soft”); ombre (“the graduating effect of fading in and fading out”); the coat as a completer piece (“an integral part of a specific outfit”); over the top, extravagant, decorative accessories.

 By the way, when I left, I started thinking about the “future of fashion” and
the one collection that immediately came to my mind, is Alexander Wang’s first
outing for Balenciaga, fall 2013. To my way of thinking, it perfectly sums it

– 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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