Crusader is as much of a job descriptor for Vivienne Westwood as fashion designer. And among her agendas, no cause resonates more acutely than her crusade to fight climate change. For Spring ’14, the designer sent out models in plastered-and-fractured makeup at Vivienne Westwood Red Label, the effect of which she likened to animals being “trapped” in the headlights. One look, a strapless brocade dress in pale gold and lavender, topped a ratty T-shirt that read “Climate.” Here, the message rang loud and clear. Moreover, Westwood gave out pre-addressed postcards to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, instructing editors to write down their own ecological apprehensions.
But Westwood wasn’t the only designer who expressed her environmental concerns this season. Christopher Kane showed metallic teardrop cutouts on dresses—”Sterilized petals,” he called them. He also offered diagrammatic outlines of botanicals, paired with blocky letters spelling “Petal” and “Flower.” His wares appeared to place a conscious emphasis on the synthetic over the natural. At Dior, Raf Simons printed slogans such as “Alice Garden” and “Primrose Path” along brightly colored numbers that seemed to suggest a kind of nuclear summer, mutated wisteria included.
Shifting from terra firma to the big blue sea, Kenzo‘s Carol Lim and Humberto Leon addressed the problem of overfishing: In addition to a few fun aquatic prints, there was a T-shirt that read “No Fish, No Nothing.” “The challenges facing our oceans are a global concern,” Leon told Style.com. “The shirt is an effort to help raise awareness through fashion’s strong voice.” A portion of the garment’s proceeds will go to the Blue Marine Foundation, which battles fish-stock depletion worldwide.
Fetish has long been a favorite fashion influence: Alexander McQueen’s Spring ’98 metal-spine corset, Louis Vuitton’s Fall ’11 Night Porter collection, and Azzedine Alaïa’s iconic eighties bondage dresses come to mind. Considering its prominence over the decades, it’s perhaps no surprise that the trend has surfaced again for Spring ’14, only this time around, it’s a bit more subtle—particularly in the collections that have employed plastic or leather shoulder-length gloves.
Thom Browne turned out an haute American Horror Story: Asylum take on the trend, of sorts, in New York, replete with second-skin white latex options. These mitts featured glued-on nails, which lent a synthetic perverseness to the designer’s vision. In London, Edward Meadham and Benjamin Kirchhoff of Meadham Kirchhoff hit their stride in a mashed-up collection of Jacobean flair and East London kook. Here, too, bicep-brushing gloves appeared (in python, no less). Looser than Browne’s, MK’s proposal suggested something a butcher or welder might don. And in Paris, Jun Takahashi showed a patent black pair at Undercover, which he styled with an anagrammatic top trimmed in a swath of matte black leather. That interplay suggested a charged message: The wearer of these defiant accoutrements is powerful, and entirely uninterested in conformity. Call it sartorial dominance.
Rainbows have long been a source of optimistic marvel, and their distinct ROYGBIV color wheel often makes its way into fashion (remember Alexander McQueen’s multi-tonal butterfly-print maxi worn by Sarah Jessica Parker in Sex and the City 2?), though perhaps not as frequently as we’ve witnessed thus far on the Spring ’14 runways.
Mara Hoffman worked a conic iteration onto a white sheer caftan in New York. Its vividness was nicely balanced by the piece’s black lines, rendered in similar triangular shapes. In London, Ashish Gupta employed his de facto trademark—sequins—on shredded denim in an eye-catching ombr— application that went from violet to sun-kissed gold. Arcing south to Milan, Peter Dundas showed another sequined option for the rainbow warrior at Pucci: a body-con, long-sleeve mini. It radiated with indigo at the collar and hem, and scarlet at its torso. And then, of course, there’s Prada, which employed a Crayola-dyed rainbow along the trim of a fur coat—such a literal take on the motif could only be finessed by Ms. Miuccia herself.
Who doesn’t love a little fuzzy Muppet madness? During the Spring shows in Milan (which feel like ages ago, but were, in fact, last week), Fendi picked up where it left off for Fall and continued having lots of fun with fur. While last season it appeared as multicolored Mohawks atop models’ heads, this time around, Lagerfeld stuck bejeweled clips with wisps of violet, cobalt, lavender, or black fluff on models’ ears. It kind of looked like what might grow out of the ear canal of everyone’s favorite out-of-control, drumming puppet, Animal—if he were aging, and impossibly glam.
Meanwhile, today at Rochas, Marco Zanini sent crystal-embellished mules covered in mops of ostrich feathers down the runway—the yellow iterations brought Big Bird to mind. Moments later, at Gareth Pugh, a model stomped the catwalk in a flurry of purple ostrich plumes that enveloped her head and neck. Call us crazy, but we think this would look fantastic on Sam the Eagle (or even Mrs. Sam the Eagle?) should he want a sartorial update.
Mexico City is rapidly emerging as a—if not the—hotbed for emerging art, fashion, and design. It boasts one of the globe’s highest concentrations of museums, features cutting-edge architecture (check out Museo Soumaya, a hull-like structure plated in honeycomb blocks designed by the firm FR-EE), and just yesterday, received attention in a front-page New York Times article about its increasing attractiveness for expatriate artists and entrepreneurs. It seems the metropolis has appealed to designers, too, as traces of Mexico City popped up on a host of Spring ’14 runways.
While such labels as Rodebjer and Rebecca Minkoff pulled inspiration from Mexico, the biggest splash belonged to Prada (as big splashes often do). Signora Miuccia commissioned a panel of muralists to paint her set with giant faces, which were replicated on dresses, skirts, and coats. Prada reported that political art out of Mexico—particularly the work of Diego Rivera—served as a strong source of inspiration, and the collection’s first look featured a print by Mexican street artist Stinkfish.
At House of Holland, Henry Holland paid homage to Baz Luhrmann’s 1996 hit Romeo + Juliet, much of which was filmed in Mexico City. Splendid hues and religious motifs weren’t compromised, thanks to prints—which nodded to Mexico’s deep Catholic roots—by L.A.-based tattoo artist Alex Garcia.
Considering that Annette and Phoebe Stephens—the duo behind New York-based jewelry line Anndra Neen—were raised in Mexico City, it is perhaps not surprising that notes from their childhood emerged in their latest offering. Spring ’14′s sculptural shields, triangular necklaces, and woven metal wares were reportedly inspired by Ron Fricke’s 1992 globe-trotting documentary Baraka. The designers, who produce the line in Mexico City’s Zona Rosa neighborhood, embraced not just Mexican artisanship but Namibian and MENA crafts as well. To top it off, the Stephens sisters showed their new range alongside their personal collection of Rivera works—the exact artist that led Ms. Prada, thousands of miles away in Milan, to her own effort.