The Colorful Themes of Spring
New York Fashion Week Spring 2009
It’s amazing what a difference a year can make. Last spring, although many designers incorporated a broad use of the color spectrum into their collections, there was still a heavy inclusion of neutral tones. Conversely, the collections shown during New York Fashion Week (September 5-12, 2008) this spring were all about color. Pops of color were to be found in almost every collection, and the tone of fashion this spring shone brighter than ever. Prints were colorful and vivacious and often culled from nature.
The zeitgeist of spring was color found in almost every single collection as designers turned to brighter palettes. Even minimalists like Calvin Klein included a modicum of bright color among more somber hues. The presentation of color was generally displayed in one of three ways: 1980s-inspired hot neon, hues derived from nature, and pastels mirroring a spring garden.
Nostalgia for the Eighties motivated some designers such as Peter Som to interpret the structure and color of that era for the modern day women. The young Russian, Alexandr Terekhov, presented ruffled tops and mini skirts in bright orange, pink and blue that were reminiscent of costumes apropos to characters from Saved By the Bell. Betsey Johnson offered flower prints in neon colors such as green, pink and blue. Fluorescent colors were even found in swimwear, evident in the pink, green, and peach suits presented at Gottex. Toni Maticevski exhibited an orange tent dress with fuchsia piping. The wunderkind of the moment, Alexandar Wang, presented Miami-inspired pastels in an about face from his fall collection that was otherwise lacking color. Snippets of nectarine orange were evident among multiple collections, including Abaete, Terevox and Naaem Khan. It even made an appearance on a cocktail dress at Monique Lhuillier.
The color ways on view in the spring collections were often directly influenced by nature. Monique Lhuillier’s spring presentation was comprised of softly sculpted gowns in colors inspired by a vacation in a tropical beach locale. She aptly named the colors azure, sand, summer, and pacific blue to illustrate this inspiration. One silk tulle asymmetrically draped gown in a blue that Lhuiller dubbed “lagoon” appeared to stream along the runway exemplifying the water it was chosen to represent. Deserts influenced Brian Reyes, and his earthy beiges ideally represented sand.
The runways were chock full of pastels and soft warm hues that evoked a spring garden or a field full of flowers. Tracy Reese chose pastel colors such as brown, rusty pink and jade green that resembled a garden and were named as such: dried azalea, nectar chrysanthemum, pale oleander. Carolina Herrera proffered up dresses of persimmon and hibiscus. Nannette Leporre was similarly influenced, stating that for spring she was “inspired by a beautiful exotic garden.” Her pastel solid separates and printed dresses were romantic and soft. Elsewhere, bright red and yellow that invoked sunflowers and marigolds were found in the collections of Max Azria, Halston, Johnathan Saunders and many others. The runways offered vivid representations of spring bloom.
Prints were everywhere and drawn from the natural world. References to the elements were abundant as found in wave prints and weave stalk prints at Monique Lhuiller, and cloud prints at Erin Fetherston and Tuleh. Yeohlee Teng stated that she was influenced by the ocean and the entrancing colors of jellyfish, while Johanna Uurasjarvi at Leifsdottir looked to the depths of the seas for the line’s runway debut. Elie Tahari offered beautiful graphic floral and modern animal prints.
Spring fashion is nothing if not a reference and a boding of the season it ushers in and this sentiment was clearly evident in the plethora of flowers found on the runways. ‘Floral prints and petal detail’ was an overarching theme of New York Fashion week. Flower inspired prints could be found in the majority of collections, from established designers such as Carlos Miele, Diane Von Furtenberg, Michael Kors, Nanette Lepore and Narciso Rodriguez to newcomers like Charlotte Ronson. Anna Sui funked up her flowers in psychedelic colors and used 70s flower icons as trim. Custo Barcelona’s flower and tropical print worked best imprinted on men’s shirts and jackets. Thakoon Panichgul chose to strip and slit his floral fabrics bondage style. Behnaz Sarafpour presented her audience with sweet, pretty, ethereal floral. Tracy Reese’s flower prints further reinforced the appropriate spring theme of a garden. Elsewhere, designers turned to a possibly more fall-appropriate print while still referring to a member of the plant family. Marc Jacobs and Tracy Reese both presented falling leaves prints, Reese in an onyx metallic finish.
Carolina Herrera was quoted as saying that spring was all “about color and contrast,” and although she was speaking about her collection, she could have been summarizing all of New York Fashion week. While the silhouettes presented were most often safe, probably in a gamble to make the clothes salable in the midst of tough economic times, designers seemed to be collectively offering an alternative to the bleak economic and political climate in the array of bright, peppy colors they exhibited. The spring presentations with their exuberant colors exemplified the sentiment of the season.
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Lyndsay Skeegan is a Merchandise Planner for the Museum of Modern Art’s Retail Division. Prior to that, Lyndsay was a Merchandiser in the Saks Fifth Avenue buying office. Lyndsay got her start at a top contemporary Art Gallery in New York’s SoHo District. She currently resides in Manhattan.