A chapel in Naples, a Japanese boutique and an American road trip – just some of the catalysts for the clothing seen on the catwalk for Spring/Summer 2016 in New York, London, Milan and Paris, and currently filtering into the shops (as the industry works a season ahead, the current New York Fashion Week is showing Autumn/Winter 2016-2017, in case you’re wondering).
I’ve combed through the Ready To Wear collections and teased out the main places designers are championing this season. They’ll inform what we all wear – whether you buy your clothes from high-end boutiques or the high street – and where we travel.
Return to Cuba
With icy relations between Cuba and the US slowly thawing, and a ferry from Miami beginning crossings for tourists from next year, looking to Havana was a no-brainer for the fashion pack. The dramatic photos of Robert Polidori – shot for The New Yorker in 1997 and 1998 – captured a crumbling city and its unforgettable colour palette, which Halston Heritage translated into an entire collection.
Meanwhile, Temperley London adopted the classic Cuban look of teaming blinding all-white pieces with sundresses and Panama hats. Tropical prints and palm leaves confirmed the holiday vibes.
Dolce & Gabbana took us to 1940s Italy, with traditional holiday postcards printed onto dresses. They showcased the Amalfi Coast, Firenze (Florence) and Palermo, amongst others. Meanwhile, Francesco Scognamiglio referenced his home city of Naples, specifically its Sansevero Chapel, which was highlighted in his notes for the SS16 collection.
At Vivienne Westwood Gold Label, the focus was on rising water levels in Venice due to climate change (we all know Venice, famous for its gondolas and canals, has problems with flooding and environmental damage – plus many a cruise ship tourist). Westwood has long been an environmental activist, but this new collection hones in on one location rather than her usual worldwide campaign against climate change.
Tadashi Shoji, Les Copains and Simone Rocha all turned their attention to Japan. For Rocha, inspiration came from a trip to Dover Street Market Gyozo and Kyoto; then in Tokyo she met photographer Nobuyoshi Araki.
Les Copains went all Madame Butterfly on us, with kimonos aplenty, mandarin collars and cherry blossom prints. Tadashi Shoji has often been inspired by his Japanese homeland, and this time it was all about spring florals, with prints of irises in bloom and delicate layers of fabric.
Maasai by Missoni and Valentino
The tribes of the Maasai Mara inspired two of this season’s big Italian collections. Angela Missoni was transfixed by Maasai collars, which she translated into swimwear designs, and her mood board was littered with images of the tribe’s warriors. She was keen to point out backstage that Africa is ‘the roots of humanity’. For Valentino, the Maasai also played a huge part, as well as the film Out of Africa. However, the catwalk show casting was predominantly white (only eight out of 87 models were black) and, as Jo Ellison of the Financial Times pointed out in her review of the collection, ‘The line between meaningful appropriation and commercial exploitation is incredibly hard to define’.
There’s always a risk of cultural appropriation when using tribal patterns and traditions (particularly with First Nation American communities, who find it insulting to spot products casually labelled ‘Navajo’). However, in the designers’ defence, legendary photographer Steve McCurry shot the entire Valentino SS16 campaign in the Amboseli National Park, Kenya, which does lend an air of authenticity (McCurry is a respected photojournalist). Pieces included Maasai beaded trainers and earrings, and utility jackets embroidered with motifs of local wildlife. The jury’s still out on this one, but I assume it will attract tourists to the area. Is it naive to think this could have a positive outcome beyond the brand? I’d love to know your thoughts.
Prabal Gurung, himself Nepalese, couldn’t fail to acknowledge last year’s horrendous earthquake. His show featured elegant clothing inspired by monks’ robes, and a show opener of chanting monks. Gurung has been tirelessly fundraising to rebuild his home country since the earthquake hit – this isn’t just a gimmick or the chance to jump on a bandwagon. His Shikshya Foundation, established in 2011, is currently working on immediate disaster relief and rebuilding projects to help the Nepalese.
If you want to support Nepal in person, don’t hesitate. Tourism is an essential part of the country’s economy, and I don’t know anyone left disappointed after spending time there. As Gurung says of people watching his collection, “I hope they’ll be enticed to go visit, because that’s what Nepal needs right now.”
Basking in Spain’s Basque Country
Joseph Altuzarra turned to the Basque Country, an autonomous part of Spain, where he was raised. His show was packed with traditional fabrics like linen and burlap, worn with broderie anglaise and teamed with espadrilles; inspiration came from local ceramics, and also photographs of modern European Pagans by Charles Freger. The Basque Country, which includes Bilbao and San Sebastian, is more fashionable than you might think: Bilbao has the ever-cool Guggenheim Museum designed by Frank Gehry, whilst Getaria is home to the Balenciaga Museum.
The area also has a handful of cultural events with fashion connections, including the Day of the Blusa, or Blouse, held in Vitoria on 25th July: young men traditionally wear a typical blue and white working shirt to attend the local bull fight without staining their normal clothes. In February’s Festival of San Blas, people wear a coloured cord around their neck for nine days before burning it – the idea being that San Blas (St. Blaise, who could heal throat problems) will protect their throat in the coming year. Clearly no need for Strepsils, then.
All Across the USA
For Mother of Pearl, seeing Laura Wilson’s photos of the tech-free Hutterite farming community in Montana sparked a fashion idea; things naturally went very Little House on the Prairie. Meanwhile, See By Chloé took us along on a 70s road trip from San Francisco to Big Sur. Putting aside all the flashy ways we can now travel (hoverboards that may spontaneously combust, anyone?), the romance of a great American road trip never gets old.
Tomas Maier was in a Miami mood. His store, in the city’s Design District, is part of the area’s rejuvenation. Back in 2008 when he moved his retail focus from the beach to the Design District, his blog spoke of ‘ this new neighborhood which he feels is an interesting location at the crossroads to downtown, the renewed Biscayne Boulevard corridor and Miami Beach.’ Today, Miami has a popular street photography festival and is a major player in the art scene.
Other Fashionable Destinations for Spring/Summer 2016…
- Carolina Herrera staged the first fashion show at the Frick Collection, New York, inside a viewing garden courtyard which had been under threat of demolition. Think statues, columns, fountains and greenery.
- Chanel made the airport a destination in its own right, using it as a theme for the show. At Chanel prices, many of us could enjoy a round-the-world trip for two, so there’s some irony here if you really think about the costs involved.
- Tommy Hilfiger looked to Mustique, in the Caribbean. The owner of Basil’s Bar, a hip Mustique hangout for decades, was positioned at the side of the runway and surrounded by models.
Are you inspired to visit any of these destinations, or do you think cultural appropriation is just wrong in any form?