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Suzy Menkes

Vogue International Editor Suzy Menkes is the best-known fashion journalist in the world. After 25 years commenting on fashion for the International Herald Tribune (rebranded recently as The International New York Times), Suzy Menkes now writes exclusively for Vogue online, covering fashion worldwide.

Marchesa and DKNY: Feminine Meets Feisty

Two very different takes on the Nineties woman

19 Февраля 2016

Marchesa, fall 2016 ready-to-wear
Marchesa, fall 2016 ready-to-wear

Two shows channelling the Nineties shined very different lights on women. This is not surprising since the duo behind the new DKNY was focused on the tomboy sexuality of the 1990s; while Marchesa was inspired by the lush luminosity of the paintings of the 1890s. 

Marchesa: Empowered Femininity

“Do you think women today should flaunt femininity?” I asked backstage after a cascade of lilac silk, golden lace and floral decoration, wrapped up with glittering jewellery, had walked the Marchesa runway. “I hope so,” chorused Georgina Chapman and Keren Craig. “We think we need it even more – women don't see femininity as vulnerability,” Georgina added.

That might well be true of the paintings of John Singer Sargent, the American-born artist whose powerful portraits of upper crust European society ladies had inspired the fashion show. It is harder to decide whether such an orgy of opulence, played out with light fingers and minds, is relevant for today.

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Marchesa, fall 2016 ready-to-wear

Marchesa, fall 2016 ready-to-wear

Marchesa, fall 2016 ready-to-wear

Marchesa, fall 2016 ready-to-wear

Marchesa, fall 2016 ready-to-wear

Marchesa, fall 2016 ready-to-wear

Marchesa, fall 2016 ready-to-wear

Marchesa, fall 2016 ready-to-wear


But if you accept fashion as fantasy (and think of all those movie stars to dress for the current round of awards ceremonies), the Marchese show was simply lovely. Honing their skills since their early days of puffy ball gowns, the shapes were slim, shadowing the body, but given an extra dimension with the surface interest of crusty Chantilly lace, organza flowers and lilac floral beading. Short, flared skirts were also included for the cocktail hour.

What struck me, along with the delicate adornment, was the fact that I spotted only one bustier top in over 30 gowns. Even if there was a portrait neckline, long sleeves balanced the bared flesh. To me, the red carpet has become increasingly vulgar since the start of the new millennium. This Marchese show proved that you can have your heart in an earlier period but make appealing dresses relevant to today.

DKNY: Is This What You Really, Really Want?

DKNY, fall 2016 ready-to-wear
DKNY, fall 2016 ready-to-wear

Designers Dao-Yi Chow and Maxwell Osborne announced on their DKNY show notes that they were inspired by strong girl bands from the 1990s “who were able to show sexuality with a tomboy feel”. I was thinking Spice Girls, but the duo seemed to go beyond that all-girls-together moment to include “deconstruction, tailoring and pinstripes” in a playful way.

The effect was aggressive, but that is not necessarily a bad idea for designers wanting to bring back the brand from Ms Average to something stronger. There were plays on shape, mostly oversized, and on texture, with satin dresses or transparent mesh, bustier sweaters. Colours that stood out among the black with its different finishes and textures were purple, red and the punk plaid that Rei Kawakubo and Vivienne Westwood practically have preserved with fashion copyright.

DKNY, fall 2016 ready-to-wear
DKNY, fall 2016 ready-to-wear

It is difficult to see where the designers plan to move the brand; surely, beyond the Nineties into the current gender-neutral arena. But as a woman, I have a nagging desire to see a translation of Donna Karan's female-friendly Seven Easy Pieces relevant to 2016 – and beyond.

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DKNY, fall 2016 ready-to-wear

DKNY, fall 2016 ready-to-wear

DKNY, fall 2016 ready-to-wear

DKNY, fall 2016 ready-to-wear

DKNY, fall 2016 ready-to-wear

DKNY, fall 2016 ready-to-wear


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