Flights of Fancy

PUBLISHED : Friday, 07 September, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 07 September, 2007, 12:00am

'Can you imagine wearing that?' is a common reaction at fashion shows. We explain the rationale behind the eccentricity.


is a single, universally shared thought that designers tend to provoke in fashion-show attendees and STYLE readers as they contemplate each season's newest, most original pieces. Depending on the intonation, however, the question can express two very different critiques.

The first expression of the phrase is one of awe and admiration. 'What inspired the designer to imagine such fantastic folds and cuts of the fabric?'

a stylist might ask. The second expression communicates the opposite reaction: 'Were they out of their minds?'

The autumn/winter runways were a magnet for these polar contemplations. Prada's standout piece certainly made an impression on the catwalk, but is unlikely to have legs in the real world. Shins at the show paraded footless, two-toned knits, their identity tiptoeing on an unsettling, thin line between 1980s legwarmers and knee-length socks. If you decide to take them to the pavements, you may as well follow Miuccia Prada's cue and pair them with the designer's open-toed heels.

It would be overkill, though, to wear them with Nicholas Ghesquiere's Transformers-inspired, stiletto-heeled pumps. The assemblage of ice-hockey equipment, Lego and a pair of heels was eye-catching to say the least. Removed from the surreal bubble of the Balenciaga show, however, the shoes are unlikely to catch on, especially at the office.

Even less subtle was the gold statement piece flaunted at Alexander McQueen. A model wore a mirrored-gold breastplate smoothly hammered out with life-like breasts. The piece is part of a jumpsuit, the limbs of which are generously sprinkled with metal sequins in varying shades of gold. It's a stunning creation, but it's certain the model would walk off the runway and straight into a public indecency fine. In all other aspects, though, McQueen's glamorous suit is a prize-winning work of art.

Another ensemble - this time by Martin Margiela - would be perfect for the next costume-required event. The Belgian designer showcased a crisp white robe that coalesced in a high V-neck, was bound by simple ropes and bolstered with shoulder pads. A single model was designated the Chosen One to present this Obi-Wan Kenobi wardrobe staple.

The Margiela robe, however, did manage to distinguish itself from other designers' outlandish, sartorial shouts for attention by balancing its quirky design with simple elegance. Perhaps the robe will soon enjoy a sighting on the streets of this planet, even though it is clear that it is more suited to another era - a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.

Viktor & Rolf had not one singular statement piece, but an entire collection of eccentric offerings. Large, loose-cut coats and dresses were splayed out and pinned onto metal beams with studio light fixtures, angled around and attached to the models as they gracefully balanced the sculptural ensemble (pictured).

Although the light fixtures are not sold as a set with the pret-a-porter pieces,

the brilliant cuts and tailoring of sleeves and pockets onto an outstretched swathe of cloth are best appreciated when supported by the bizarre framework. Alas, while it is certainly creative, it is also as impractical as the Prada shin-cosies, the McQueen breastplate and the Jedi Knight attire are for everyday wear.

Comme des Garcons took a hands-on approach to its statement piece; a pastel pink sweater - at first glance a very wearable, everyday garment - was held together by a pair of three-dimensional hands in a matching hue. The effect was humorously reminiscent of the playful spirit embodied by Elsa Schiaparelli in the 1930s and 40s.

These pieces might be disregarded as entertaining novelties that rarely make it off the catwalk, but they allow the designer to give full reign to his artistry and to put aside the audience's perception of fashion as mere commodity. They are an integral part of a fashion show and provoke stylists, editors and readers to think twice about the skill and creativity involved in the industry.