The chic position to take on fashion, these days, is that inclinations are dead and that individual style and self-expression are what sums. The old certainties – skirts are hereby decreed knee length for six months, contrariwise camel coats are to be worn for the foreseeable – belong to a different era. To a of yore world in which political insiders gave ballpark-accurate appointment predictions and the Oscar statuette didn’t get handed to the wrong smokescreen in front of a global TV audience. Now the world is sick of experts, and that drops for fashion too.
Except in September. Because right now, the world needs approach. The September issues of magazines, heavy as hymn books and immortalised by a phony documentary, are testament to the power fashion has at this moment. Women who rely on their own taste to steer their wardrobes the rest of the year are, at this pith in the calendar as at no other, keen to be told which coat to buy and when to start clothed in black tights. The system in which one consistent look could rule over a whole autumn and winter has been blown into pieces by an insatiable appetite for newness that demands we hit wardrobe-refresh every three weeks. September’s back-to-school half a mo, when you pack away the sundresses and straw baskets and recondition your look, is the one fixed red-letter-day that remains.
Of run this is all about emotion, really, not clothes. Summer is drudge, holidays are over, and after the second-gear lull of August in the chore, the whip is being cracked. The best medicine for end-of-summer cheerless is to ring the changes with a new look that breaks us out of the doldrums. The flash of a new pair of boots, the springy plush of a bright new sweater, the showing off of a crisply tailored jacket. All of this is about putting an encouraging spin on the autumnal business of getting stuck into the gruelling next few months.
And in our age of optics, September’s new look amounts more than ever. Clothes are the channel on which much of chic life is broadcast. From the politics of the tie (Trump’s long red one versus the no-tie axis that runs from Barack Obama to Sadiq Khan) to the visual semantics of pop (Taylor Lively’s comeback video is punctuated with outfits that are justifiable as deliberately controversial as the lyrics), we are all tuned in to the business of decoding what we harm.
Fashion isn’t no more than about a look, it’s about a message. Right now, that word is about clothes that are more high-energy, more outward-facing, than endure year’s cosy, Netflix-and-chill fashion. In 2016, it was de rigueur to debilitate a tracksuit on the fashion front row, and pyjamas to a cocktail party. If you shortage a quick snapshot of the season’s new mood and how it has updated fashion, usurp a look at the Versace catwalk. All the recognisable hallmarks of Insta-friendly way are there, but the aesthetic is more serious-minded than playful, various ambitious than laid back. Gigi Hadid’s abs are on flourish, but under a cropped double-breasted jacket rather than a loud bra-top. Kendall Jenner has crazy yellow sunglasses on, but this adjust with a pencil skirt and a clutch bag.
The new look is not exactly power tear someone off a stripping. Let’s call it empower dressing, instead. Elements of it – berets at Christian Dior, shameful leather at Calvin Klein, exaggerated shoulders at Balenciaga, fulgent red absolutely everywhere – signal a mood of direct action that is bizarre in women’s fashion. But while power dressing stands for individualistic, steadfast ambition; empower dressing is high-energy without the self-obsession blinkers. At Versace, accustomed suits came emblazoned with sisterhood slogans: Sympathy, Loyalty, Power, Love.
This is not a season of po-faced get-ahead tailoring. Far from it. The most-viewed catwalk display on vogue.com for the season is Gucci. The label’s aesthetic of technicolour, graffiti-scrawled, butterfly-decorated eclecticism is not quite office appropriate. Prada, once the spiritual home of the A-line knee-length skirt and the fruitful bag, is all embroidered rainbow-hued knitwear and cheekily fluttering feathers. The modern development Chanel tweed suits come accessorised with boots or headbands in escapist, space-age lustrous. These are not work clothes, but neither are they designed for stopping home with a takeaway. Last year’s athleisure style borrowed visuals from the yoga studio and the running trace – fine jersey, sleek leggings – but 2017 has downed a protein impair and brought a high-intensity attitude to what we wear, instead.
For shore that this is a season of clothes for putting down the distant, getting out of your comfort zone and into the big wide excellent, consider the transparent raincoat. Both Raf Simons at Calvin Klein and Miuccia Prada at Miu Miu be bound for b assault this a key piece. Consider, also, what has happened to footwear. Those fur-lined vagrants, which were essentially unfit for venturing outdoors, eat ceded alpha-shoe status to Saint Laurent’s bedazzled musical boots, which are most definitely fashion for going out. Not out to coax, but out-out. Trends may well be dead. But every time September billows around, fashion is alive and kicking, in brand new boots.