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Major fashion labels leave Earth for autumn
Sands Style / Fashion & Luxury

Major fashion labels leave Earth for autumn

Blast off this autumn with Space Age fashion in Macao

Chanel’s show – complete with rocket – led the space race at the autumn/winter 2017 show in Paris

For decades, space has been a stage for human competition. Superpowers flex their muscles over milestone achievements and astronauts test their endurance beyond the Earth’s atmosphere. Funnily enough, the fashion world plays by the same rules.

The autumn/winter collections illustrate the extent to which the industry has embraced the intergalactic aesthetic as a trend – and the number of brands that are vying for the top spot.

While a plethora of dresses, jackets, coats and handbags at Milan, New York and London Fashion Weeks were inspired by all things not of this planet, it was Karl Lagerfeld who showed that he was still the master of the fashion universe with his ode to space dressing.

Under the dome of the Grand Palais in Paris on a wintery morning in March, models marched around a Chanel-branded rocket that reached almost all the way up to the 120-year-old glass ceiling.

“To have this work, to build a decoration like this ... takes months and months,” Lagerfeld says. “It cannot be improvised so you have to hope it will be the right thing for the right moment. There is no turning back.”

The assembled crowd naturally assumed that the rocket ship was there for effect, but towards the end of the show, in a blaze of sparks, fire and light, it actually lifted 10 metres into the air and looked set to blast its way through the dome.

Yet, by this point, fashion editors and buyers had witnessed such an extraordinarily creative array of design, that a rocket blasting off in a Parisian palace seemed par for the course.

There had been shiny quilted blankets that sat like miniature metal sheets above the models’ shoulders, metallic leather knuckle warmers, oversized silver bags and, as a nod to Chanel’s most iconic look, glittery knee boots with patent contrasting toe-tips. All this, with Elton John’s Rocket Man blaring over the speakers.

“We wanted to go in the air. To create a fantasy about the air for the earth,” Lagerfeld says. “But it was very down to earth at the same time. It is all about a matter of touches, we wanted to create what the French call la Voie lactée [the Milky Way] in the night sky. It was an idea that included the touch of the future I hope.”

Nonetheless, while Lagerfeld spoke of the future, aesthetically the show was pure 1960s melodrama. He was clearly inspired by the silver go-go boots, the bouffant hairstyles, the wide headbands and the boxy short dresses of Stanley Kubrick's 1968 film classic 2001: A Space Odyssey. And, like Kubrick’s masterpiece which is nearly 50 years old, the show was almost entirely monochrome, with an emphasis on grey, silver and white, accompanied by a touch of black and navy.

What is impressive about the Chanel autumn/winter collection is that it has mastered a hugely creative, utterly other-worldly aesthetic filled with wearable pieces. The silk dresses printed with doll-sized moonwalkers and the tweed shift dresses with starched necklines wouldn’t look out of place among the canals at Shoppes at Venetian.

One of the most imaginative pieces at the show had silver bracelets that at first glance looked like bangles, but which were actually modelled on spacesuit technology, allowing the glove to fit into the rest of the outfit. “You have the fixed line – fixed to the clothes, which gives a touch of modernity to a classic sweater,” Lagerfeld says. “But you don’t know how difficult it was to make it [the silver bracelets] work, because every dress and every jumper was not the same size. It was a question of millimetres.”

As the summer sales give way to the autumn collections in boutiques across the northern hemisphere, these exquisite clothes are being arranged in ever-more creative intergalactic window displays, allowing us to see Lagerfeld’s meticulous work up close. From New York’s Fifth Avenue and London’s Bond Street to The
Shoppes at Four Seasons Macao and Rue Cambon in Paris, mannequins are being draped in silver jackets and knee-high sequin boots around miniature Chanel rockets. 

It seems the entire industry is equally obsessed, with everyone from Dior and Mary Katrantzou to Mara Hoffman, Christopher Kane and even Kanye West getting in on the intergalactic act.

Even ahead of autumn, the trend was being foreshadowed by other brands: if you strolled around Shoppes at Four Seasons over the summer, you may have seen at least one major label sporting space shuttles and astronauts in their windows.

“It is incredible to see how movements build like this,” says Acacia Leroy of international consultancy TrendWatching. “It’s down to so many factors from science, politics, technology, the environment, to the international economy, art, the music scene, and even food trends. A certain look like this may have been sparked off by any of those, or by festival dressing last year, or what a particular celebrity wore to the Oscars or even just the general street-style in the fashion capitals.”

Clearly a number of designers in New York, Milan and Paris have been hanging out in the same restaurants, bars and music festivals because many of their designs had an extraterrestrial feel. One memorable look came from Gucci, where the ultramaximalist collection by Alessandro Michele included UFO-printed dresses and sparkling crystal bodysuits, shown to the backdrop of a surreal-looking black pyramid, topped with a weather vane. Michele, who until now has been famous for a geek-chic Wes Anderson aesthetic, used the intergalactic trend to debut a new look for the Italian brand.

Over at Moschino Pre-Fall 2017, meanwhile, Jeremy Scott showed off a series of Transformers-like space prints. We’re talking full ball-gowns with netting and nipped-in waists made with prints you’d find in a children’s dressing up box – robots battling in space, fireballs shooting past stars and rockets hurtling towards distant planets.

Many commentators have noted that, given the global political climate, the Euro-centric fashion industry is looking as far afield as possible for inspiration – even beyond Earth. And given that it is often in times of turmoil that artists are at their most creative, it seems fitting that designers have chosen this year to step back from traditional decade-inspired themes and create something unique.

“This is what I like about fashion and the way of making clothes,” Lagerfeld says. “… you have to have a technique, an existing technique. You have to know the model and then it is up to you to invent something new, something more. Fashion is about change and fashion is about the reflection and the evolution of the world.”