Spring Summer 2014 Womenswear Trends

By Mitchell Oakley Smith
17th Dec 2013

Following the four major fashion weeks—New York, London, Milan and Paris— each season, it would seem to the layman, designers have been colluding on what will be the big trends we will be wearing six months later, when the collections drop in store.

Do they meet up and brainstorm these things? No, but there's certainly a collective creative consciousness in the world, and given that as a form of art it reflects what's happening in the world, it only makes sense designers tap into the same ideas and themes.

Beyond that of course, is the availability of fabrics and prints from manufacturers, which contributes to defining what we wear on our backs.

Herewith, the trends of the season.

The Art of Fashion

Art and fashion have been hovering around one another for decades, beginning with Italian designer Elsa Schiaparelli's collaborations with surrealists, such as Jean Cocteau and Salvador Dali, in the 1930s. Since then there has been a slew of collaborations and artist homages within the fashion industry, exploding this season with clothes worthy of display in an art gallery.

Indeed at Chanel, artistic director Karl Lagerfeld mounted a set resembling one, with Chanel-inspired art installations and sculptures and clothes with painterly brushstrokes in vivid colours. Miuccia Prada reproduced murals from the Prada show space on dresses; Raf Simons modernised classic Christian Dior dresses with embroidered slogans about flowers, an ongoing theme of the house; Kenzo's artistic duo Carol Lim and Humberto Leon added interest to simple white dresses by taking to them with what appeared as oversized marker pens in scribbly patterns; and Jean-Charles de Castelbajac mined his own archive and reproduced some of his paintings on shift dresses.

Athletic Awakening

A revolution in fabric technology has taken place in recent years, making sportswear fashionable once again as the likes of Nike and Stella McCartney for Adidas make dressing athletically fashionable (and, of course, comfortable). It is only logical this should extend to the runway, but it's not just the major American designers like Calvin Klein and Alexander Wang tapping into the sportswear trend, storied European houses more associated with haute couture than basketball are embracing sports.

Frida Giannini can be credited with bringing Italian leathergoods house Gucci into the 21st century with her modern overhaul of its men's and women's collections. This season included mesh t-shirts and slouchy shorts that wouldn't feel out of place on the court—all in super-luxe fabrics, of course. Petite basketball-style shorts turned up at Alexander Wang, Emilio Pucci, Marc by Marc Jacobs and Balenciaga, while ribbed fabric leggings accessorised the looks at Prada.

Glitz & Glamour

Maybe it's the conservatism that has plagued red carpets in recent years, with stars playing it safe in simple, classic gowns, but this season metallic made a return to the runway with brash, glitzy and all-together fabulous frocks at the fore.

Joseph Altuzzara went totally 90s with barely there, spaghetti-strap dresses in gold and silver made from metallic threads at New York Fashion Week, setting off a trend that popped up over the next month of shows. Sequined dresses and jumpsuits in red, bronze and deep rose made for a statement finale at Givenchy, glimmering under the runway's spotlights; Alber Elbaz made use of lame, lurex and brocade at Lanvin, with metallic-on-metallic-on-metallic dresses, jackets and tops in a collection that cheekily played with the notion of Eurotrash; and Hedi Slimane continued his rockstar aesthetic at Saint Laurent with sequin-embellished mini-dresses.

Pretty in Pastel

It was a season of statements, but not every designer is going hell-for-leather (literally), with delicate pastel tones turning up in numerous collections in timeless, ladylike dresses and separates in wool, lace and tweed. At Balmain, known for its brash over-the-top style, baby pink was order of the day with a beautiful lace stealing the spotlight in a collection more Chanel than club chick.

Christopher Bailey also used pastel lace at Burberry, reviving what was once the world's lace production home of Nottingham in the United Kingdom with dresses, blouses and skirts acting as a peek-a-boo to delicate undergarments. Pastels also appeared in the collections of Miu Miu, in long-sleeved, knee-length dresses; Preen by Thornton Bregazzi, in pink cut-away skirts and tops; and in 60s-style dress-and-cardigan combinations in mint and pink at Carven.

Shimmer & Shine

For his swan song as artistic director of Louis Vuitton, Marc Jacobs recalled many of his archival designs and reproduced them in black with glittery embellishment, and coming as the show did at the end of a four-week season, it confirmed the omnipresence of embellishment, such as lavish crystals and sequins, as a very big trend. These pieces were no ordinary hints of sparkle, but rather sculptural additions to traditional garments that transformed entire looks, like the delicate crystals that appeared to give shape to pastel cocktail dresses at Christian Dior, or the sunray motif of jewels that gave weight to barely there sheer skirts at Burberry.

Clothes were similarly bejeweled at Prada, with oversized disco sequins; Bottega Veneta, with multi-coloured crystals enveloping simple floor-length dresses; and Marni, where embellishment created a jagged effect on bomber jackets and skirts.

Mitchell Oakley Smith is a global-roaming journalist, editor and author of three books, including the recently released Art / Fashion in the 21st Century. He also edits and publishes menswear journal Manuscript.

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