There has been something of a furore within the fashion world about the new “see now, buy now” industry model, whereby consumers can buy pieces from runway collections instantly rather than having to wait the usual six months for the clothes to be “in season” and available in stores and online. So for instance, AW16 clothes from labels such as Tommy Hilfiger have been available to buy since last February, and similarly SS17 are available now. The move has been heralded (by the industry) as “the democratisation of fashion”, but really it has more to do with satisfying the need for instant fashion gratification. Since street style and social media exploded, there’s been an insatiable appetite for the newest, latest, freshest fashion ideas by those women who want to be the first to wear them, or at least be the first to be photographed in them. To me, it looks a little like a hamster wheel – exhausting and with no finish line. Can’t we all just sit and consider for a while?
In any case, those who don’t buy direct from the runways (and let’s face it, that’s the majority of us) may think that this development will have no real impact on them, but having viewed the SS17 collections, I’ve realised it’s going to have quite a dramatic effect on how we all dress going forward.
The SS17 collections can be purchased immediately, so the knock-on effect is that women want to wear them immediately, i.e. in winter rather than summer (who’s going to leave their brand new, straight-off-the-catwalk Carven dress hanging in their closet till spring when they can get it out for Christmas?). As a result, many of the collections had a distinctly unsummery vibe. In fact, they looked positively wintry. London label Burberry Prorsum sent weighty shearlings and duster coats down the runway in traditionally autumnal, earthy colours. There was no reimagining in sorbet shades or silks. It was business as usual with camel trenches and chunky lace-up boots.
Knitwear had a heavy presence too, and I’m not referring to the traditional fine weaves from labels like Missoni, but instead chunky knits, long-sleeved sweater dresses and oversized styles. Thakoon showcased thick longer-length scarfs and fur-collared capes.
It was as if designers had a quintessentially Irish summer in mind when building their moodboards. And this new season will appeal particularly to Irish women for it’s very lack of seasonality. How often have you looked at a spring/summer collection and thought, “Yes, perfect if I lived in San Tropez”? Haven’t you regularly felt alienated by those willow-the-wisp-like dresses, or wondered how your Celtic complexion could withstand the onslaught of milky neutrals? Well, not this year. Our favourite fallback, black, was dominant on catwalks from Ellery to Anne Demeulemeester, and designers including Roksanda Illincic and Creatures of the Wind stuck with toasty tones of copper and burgundy.
Structured silhouettes, which are often abandoned for summer in favour of fluid, boho shapes, were heroed by labels from Prada to Bottega Veneta. Suddenly, finding your summer style feels less like a seismic shift and more like a nuanced nudge.
As a self-confessed autumn/winter lover, I was drawn to the SS17 collections because they related so much more to how I dress for work, in a city, in a country with a temperamental climate. And of course, everything we see on the catwalks trickles down to a high street near you. For this summer anyway, Irish women need no longer feel daunted by the prospect of how to pull off pastels or sport a kaftan without looking like a clown. I think Irish-born, London-based designer Sharon Wauchob achieved a beautiful balance with her SS17 show, creating looks that transcended seasons without rerouting viewers back to the depths of winter. Because even I don’t want that.