Every year it’s the same: Somewhere between Black Friday early-bird sales and the mad rush for those dreaded gift returns, January creeps up on us. As if without warning, one year begins to melt into the next and we say a toast, hoping we’ll stick to the resolutions scribbled on a Post-It somewhere—secretly knowing that we won’t. It’s easy to lose sight of what’s fashionable, let alone prepare for the upcoming seasons. That is, if we can even remember the runways we drooled over months before.
There’s a tendency in fashion to attribute an entire decade to one universal style, defined by trendy slogans and tied off neatly with a knot. We tell ourselves that the next ten years will naturally take on their own shape. But what about each separate and unique year? And each season that laid a new foundation for the next? I could keep going, but I think you get the idea. As easy as it is to jump to conclusions, generalize trends and “move on to the next best thing,” I urge you to take a more comprehensive approach.
So what exactly will the new year bring?
The upcoming seasons are punchier, intensified versions of what we’ve become comfortable with. Don’t shy away from them and don’t attempt to find a safe middle ground—it’s an all or nothing deal and now is the time to be brave.
But just as fashion doesn’t wait for us to keep up, it isn’t reborn every time our calendars are replaced. Let’s take Albert Kriemler, head designer for Akris, as an example. He might not produce the flashiest work, but his past collections show how design details travel through time.
Kriemler highlighted featherweight fabrics adorned with subtle, delicate ruffles worn underneath loosely fitting cropped jackets. His feminine shapes weren’t so different from what came down the runway last September, but there’s been an undeniably drastic shift in structure since then. Though the loose, floating styles haven’t disappeared completely, more designers are turning to fabrics that can produce an entirely new shape on the body.
The hyper-masculine look that took center stage this past fall isn’t going away. If anything, it’s going to be even more pronounced than before, blending confident femininity with determined gusto. This season’s warm-weather versions are solid black or white and tailored to perfection, yet don’t always aim to hide a woman’s curves. Givenchy’s previous attempts were nothing to scoff at, but the silhouettes were far more traditional than what we’ll see this Spring and Summer. Instead of head-to-toe suiting, designers are raising hemlines and exaggerating the shoulders, creating a look that often borders on the erotic (see Calvin Klein and Balenciaga).
But don’t assume that sultry sexiness is banned for the season. In your annual shedding of winter clothes, prepare to show some skin. Self-tanners will be flying off the shelves as plunging v-necks and scandalous minis accentuate the figure. Sexy is no longer defined as streamlined; chiseled structure is taking the place of bare-it-all silks. Enter Bottega Veneta, who paired low-cut necklines with eggshell and A-line skirts, and topped clean-edged minis with tasteful blazers.
If you’re looking for a little more “pop,” brilliant colors and loud patterns aren’t reserved for just trim and accessories. Valentino opened his collection with dresses in fire-engine red and banana yellow, while Prada’s iridescent purples are enough to shock the eyes. As for the pattern savvy, Oscar de la Renta led the pack with his retro-inspired flower prints set to contemporary cuts.
Next fall might feel like a mystery without February’s Fashion Week as a guide, but clues are everywhere you look. The last few months flaunted plaid in every conceivable form and found influence in Napoleanic dress, among other trends. While just about everyone I know could be seen with a touch of plaid, I found few were willing to adopt the military style. And we can only hope that the bubble skirts, flattering on so few of us, will fill magazine pages rather than retail stores. But the best news for those determined to stay in the forefront of fashion is that many (though not all) of last season’s pieces are versatile enough to adapt to any new style, no matter how radical.
So what about the season at hand? January represents your first real shot at a winter wardrobe, now that cold weather has officially sunk in and the holiday soirées are coming to a close. It’s time to trade in those ritzy cocktail dresses for something a little more practical. I sincerely doubt that the advent of heeled ankle boots—a.k.a. booties—will maintain their wide appeal, but the matching opaque tights are definitely here to stay.
Heavy layering of colors and different fabrics was also a fall favorite, but the look makes more sense during the chilly winter months. The key to layering is contrast and texture. Without an interesting combination, a potentially striking ensemble can quickly become dull and overbearing.
Clothes aren’t the only thing on people’s minds this year: Fashion models are receiving a new kind of media attention as the public speaks out against underweight “skeletons” sauntering down the runway. Designers John Galliano and Jean Paul Gaultier stunned audiences when they added plus-size pieces to their collections, making no attempt to hide the models’ voluptuous figures. Dolce & Gabana turned heads as well, featuring a seductively posed Crystal Renn in a recent ad campaign.
Despite public scrutiny—from gossip to outspoken activism—the industry isn’t likely to change overnight. Runway regulations and a handful of open-minded designers have certainly made a lasting impact, but whether it reaches beyond that in the future is still unclear. Chanel may have redefined the ideal body shape of the ’20s, but nearly a century later the fashion industry is far more rooted in its practices. Perception of beauty runs deep, so to say that a more realistic portrayal of women will dominate in the coming year is optimistic, but (unfortunately) improbable.
What is it about a new year that makes us think the next twelve months will be different from all the rest?
Fashion is not a flash-bulb event. Similarly, design does not forgive and forget the past. It’s a process that spans decades without being confined to our limited views of contemporary popularity. Whether styles become widespread trends or are banished to the clearance rack, they change us from day to day, season to season and year to year. We can expect the same in 2007: A year of innovative, broad transformations alongside minute alterations—distinct from a past that also promises to amplify the future.