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The SSENSE Fall/Winter 2017 Womenswear Trend Report

Oct 26 2019

A Guide to the Future and Next Season’s Products


Out of the sea of sequins in Alessandro Michele’s unisex Fall/Winter 2017 Gucci show emerged a complete amalgamation of human and crystal. Who needs strobe cream when you’ve got a completely prismatic face? If masks became ubiquitous, the playing field might be more level than makeup could ever make it. Post-human, pre-crystal, we are on the cusp of a cyborgian future that’s glowing right before our eyes.



Encased in tailored plastic, Raf Simons’ PVC-wrap fur coat for Calvin Klein is like a package that will remain unopened—indefinitely stretching out a thrill akin to that of an unboxing video. With a membrane shielding itself from the outside world, its plasticity suggests a perverse kind of pleasure where you can see—but never touch—your beloved object. It’ll stay there, always a little distant, burnishing and uncanny.


Why do we always talk about “survival kits” when our ambitions should be so much higher than just living? For this reason, the doctor’s bag has always been the ultimate all-in-one kit, allowing anyone to role-play as a life-saving professional. Lavender essential oil for a stressful subway ride? Got it. Band-aid? Take a couple, I have plenty. With the right top-handle bucket bag one can reach a level of preparedness that goes beyond survival into fantasies of immortality. House calls are no problem. And death? I don’t know her.


A chunky running shoe is an oxymoron. As the silhouette of our sneakers expands, our ability for speed is inherently reduced. And maybe that’s the point. Much like the heavy bronze sculptures that Italian Futurists made as an “ode to speed,” these running shoes delete their own function and become a totem of fastness. This leads us to reckon with what’s really important about the athleisure craze—the ability to run at any given moment, or the ability to look like you can?


As our news gets more fake and our paranoia gets more real, who among us is above wearing a tinfoil hat? This season’s Comme des Garçons runway show certainly proffers this advice, with Brillo Pad wigs that bring fear of mind control out into the arena of urban necessity. Wearing aluminium on your head to keep out government radio signals has always been a scarlet letter for the conspiracy theorist—a figure who’s become more mainstream over time. Yes, we admit that the moon landing was real. But, we’d still prefer to make our dinner plans over end-to-end encrypted text messages. Through metallic finishes and stealth footwear, our conspiratorial side leads us to rule number one of glamor: always act as though someone is watching.


Feathers don’t have to be about fluff. On the Fall/Winter 2017 Prada runway, Miuccia offered us a vision of plumage that veers away from The Great Gatsby and towards Robert E. McGinnis’s illustrations of Bond girls—women who simultaneously possess sex appeal, ulterior motives, and concealed weapons. Embellishing yourself to the point of recklessness is a way to escape the limitations of being “civilized.” As we follow the laws of the wild, we learn that feathers are equally useful for mating calls as they are for intimidating predators. And let’s face it: it’s a jungle out there.


Rust is rampant. It’s the color of summer’s death. It’s the uninvited warmth in your dye job. It’s the stain in your garments. But oxidation doesn’t have to be a pest. As the iron machinery of our old economy fades to orange, rust is also a symbol of leisure—of things not working anymore. And what could be more romantic than embracing dysfunction? Undeniably raw, rust might be the most human color of all. Just like mammals, it needs oxygen and water to survive. Rust is us.


Function and fashion can finally exist symbiotically, and this season’s hardware isn’t going to let you forget that. Put aside subdued clasps and minimal zippers—if a buckle is the size of your face, then you’re properly repping for utility. Self-sufficiency has always been the best accessory. The more tools you have at your disposal, the less you require from others. There’s no need to look like you’re about to go on an Arctic expedition for the sake of broadcasting your rugged self-reliance. The proof is in the details. And the details are huge.


The perpetual re-discovery of grunge is like the aesthetic equivalent of yogic breathing. Vibrating from Marc Jacobs’ legendary Spring/Summer 1993 Perry Ellis show, its faux-disheveled affect has become a rhythmic element of the universe. Slouchy plaid, worn denim, and ripped fishnet are bedrocks of chillness that we can always return to, especially in times of confusion. So here it is: Grunge, again.


The ribbed lines of corduroy trace back deep into history. It was the choice fabric of European royalty in the 16th century. The uniform pant of World War I. And the upholstery of the world’s first mass-market automobile, the 1918 Ford Model T. Yet it would be a mistake to conflate the fabric with nostalgia. In an internet culture dominated by audio-visual technology, the texture has taken on a new and seductive quality. You can’t upload the way ribbed cotton feels under your fingers—making corduroy the ultimate look-don’t-touch gesture.


The rapid-fire nostalgia that permeates contemporary creative rhetoric gets, for lack of a better word, old. The rate at which trends of the past are exhumed and exacerbated leaves little left to explore. Quilting is unique in its ability to evolve, like a game of Go: there are infinite ways to customize your work. How can the things in your life that don’t work be repurposed? Marie Kondo may advise that you divest yourself of everything that doesn’t spark joy, but joy can be reignited. Heeding the call to re-illuminate, you dismantle the old and craft something entirely different from it. Then, you watch as out of the patches, something new grows.


Who can truly be lost when they have their earthly possessions on their person? Even melding to your body like a new appendage—a welcomed phantom limb. The zippers, clasps, pockets, and velcro of next season’s hip pouch renaissance combines nomadism with wearable tech—wayfaring for the modern woman. You might say that these pouches are the bindlestiff of today’s nomads—a second skin for the stability-averse.


Satire has taught us that a good imitation is sometimes stronger than the real thing—especially when it comes to power. Such is the case with Real Tree camo, a military-inspired look so military that it dips into an uncanny valley. In a time of ranting climate change deniers, what better way to rep for the environment than to literally disappear when you step inside of it? Ralph Waldo Emerson didn’t know that one day being at one with nature would become a New Age slogan, or that the Earth would get hotter than it can stand. For him, and for next season, it means communing with your surroundings in a spirit of gratitude

Hazmat Heels

When Uma Thurman—clad in fluorescent green spandex and thigh-high boots—played the super villain Poison Ivy, she made toxicity look inviting. Unlike the grotesque transformation of bygone comic bad boys, hers was an alluring spiral into venomous rage. This season, the trademark green of mutant botany has resurfaced, courtesy of Balenciaga’s Demna Gvasalia. Part sock, part heel, these stiletto booties are the height of cross-pollinated fashion. To slip on this particular shade of green is to crook your finger towards the toxic, inviting it in to wreak some stunning havoc.


In “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,” Walter Benjamin lamented the loss of the human touch that accompanied the rise of mass production. No art or craft has escaped this side-effect of industrialization. Although the sneakers you wore to work today were the product of a global orchestra of human labor, they probably feel like the opposite of special. Vetements’ Reeboks aim to flip that script, customizing a mass-produced item in the fashion of a zoned-out kid in math class. Of course, no one actually scribbled on these kicks—in fact, that faux-scribble might actually be the least human thing about them. But luxury is animated by contradictions.

Boot Camp

Sometime cliches give us valuable truths: boots are made for walking. They’re also made for mountain-climbing. And rioting. And horseback riding. Such versatility has become a prerequisite for the modern human, who faces an abundance of to-do lists and contradictions without time for a footwear change. The only hard part of the balancing act is remaining yourself while fulfilling all these duties. Which brings us to the boot’s most important function: the ability to say with a leather-bound stomp, “Fuck off!”


When Ludacris said, “We want a lady in the street but a freak in the bed,” he obviously hadn’t gotten the memo that the personal is political. Despite flagrantly mansplaining lifestyle choices in a 2004 chart-topping hit, Luda’s taste proclamation seems to have incited a very slow-release clapback. Thirteen years later, the streets are a place in which to celebrate the so-called freaks. Light bondage and fetish wear features prominently on the runway this season—slippery patent pants, leather dog-collars, and subtle harnesses. While some might find those “outfits ridiculous, in the club lookin’ so conspicuous,” this isn’t about what it does for the viewer. The fantasy is for the wearer.