Last week, at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week at Smash Box Studios during Fashion Week L.A., it happened over and over again. Over the course of five days of fashion shows, a parade of models strutted down the runway in black after black outfit.
If the designers were feeling really creative there was grey over black, a black and white shemagh, an ochre belt over a grey tunic, a black tunic over blue jeans. Though I found the silhouettes, details, and tailoring impeccable, I wondered why the designers had chosen so few colors. Would fashionistas be adding yet more black clothing to their closets?
Obviously, the Pantone Fashion Color Report had little or no influence on this crop of designers. Unbeknown to many, the colors we wear are picked out years in advance by a panel of arbiters, designers, color, and textile experts. They do this years in advance so the textile makers will know what colors to make, so designers can plan their collections, so editors can layout the pages of magazines, and retail buyers will anticipate the next trend.
Pantone, Inc. is a color think tank that studies how colors effect people. They also develop the well-known Pantone Color Swatch book that every design and art student is introduced to when they start school. From this book, which encompasses both shade and hue (and is also updated), the colors we wear are selected.
The colors chosen for Fall 2008 range from Ochre to Blue Iris. There's a shade called Aurora Red, which I predict, along with a purple called Royal Lilac, will be the biggest colors in autumn.
It made little sense to me to see collections that were almost exclusively black, with occasional speed bumps of lilac. Why was this? Fashion is art, so could they be responding to the tumultuous times we live in?
It wasn't lost on me that there were many tailored jackets with epaulets, and most looked like uniforms. The Monarchy Collection, a luxe line of denims, was like a John LeCarré fashion show come to life.
Men in horn rimmed glasses, as though purchased from a state-owned optometry store, shared the runway with others in hand knit earphones and Russian fur hats. A few models, with plain colored shemaghs wrapped around their heads, strutted forth in a disconsolate manner. Which war were they fighting?
Still, for all the wonderful detailing, the fit which was perfect, and the colors never went beyond grey, black, white and ochre. It was as if the depression and uncertainty we live in was reflected on the runway.
Such restlessness was hilariously summed up in a show by Elmer Avenue, a high energy show that was Adam Ant Gets A Job At Hot Topic, or Beetle Juice Goes To South Coast Plaza. With a blazer embellished with the word "betrayal," one just couldn't take their luxe anarchic attitude seriously.
These are dire times, and this recession is going to stick around for a long while. However, I can't help but think it's a bit clichéd to express discord by only using blacks and greys.
The reality is, despite what happens on the runways, we'll all go down the clinker wearing colors from Costco and Target. It's unfortunate that out of so many colors, many luxe designers are sticking with shitake, ochre, and black. One can only hope someone rescues them from their sinking ship very soon.
Evidence of our thirst for color came when Falguni & Shane Peacock Couture took the runway in an explosion of color and texture. The silks were in a riot of patterns, with details such as jewels, rich embroidery using gold thread, feathers, and small bejeweled purses recalled the days of the Raj.
Only two designers from India could pull off such a sumptuous and dazzling collection. At last, Falguni & Shane treated us to a visual experience that dazzled us, and did what great fashion does: imports us to a different world.
My advice for those wanting to buy from the 2008 colors is to pick one or two you like. Go through the fashion mags and find one piece that will work with what you've got in your closet. It could be a jacket or even a scarf. (For my money, better to buy a scarf than a shirt or dress that just doesn't fit).
Men, consider a tie, pocket square, or a dress shirt in Royal Lilac. It's not about tossing everything out and buying everything new (I take that back. For some people it is). It's about finding the one essential piece that makes you feel fresh for the season.
All photos courtesy of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week.