The great escape

The great escape

This season fashion designers urge us to forget our troubles and indulge in some unabashed style escapism

Rhinestone boots, freshwater pearl socks; an ostrich feather gown. No, these aren’t the costume highlights from a lavish West End theatre show, but rather three of this season’s most desirable pieces. In fact, for AW17 and beyond, many designers are offering a riposte to the current state of global instability with a fanciful dose of fashion escapism.

The barre was set at Balenciaga, where creative director Demna Gvasalia reinterpreted a selection of Cristóbal Balenciaga’s landmark couture gowns with contemporary bravado. Bubble-shaped dresses in swathes of polka-dot silk, raspberry satin or light-as-air marabou plumes were met with admiration and awe; a fantasy to watch and – one can only imagine – to wear. At Prada, Miuccia chose exuberant feather headpieces in fire hydrant red and sky blue were a salve to sturdy wool twinsets and loafers. Meanwhile at Gucci, Alessandro Michele’s rhinestones were in abundance and adorned everything from flamboyant headwear to floor-length silk capes.

Doggy bags gave preppy whites a quirky twist at Thom Browne;Trashy Chic at Moschino

Of course, clothes of this nature are not entirely practical. A sumptuous silk Balenciaga ‘sports bag’ is about as much use at the gym as Christopher Kane’s giant gemstone pool slides are on the beach. Perhaps, if not to surprise, delight, or make us dream, these pieces are designed to amuse – if you’re willing to be in on the joke, that is. Consider Prada’s witty take on the humble boiler suit at Miu Miu for resort 2018. With pearl and sequin embellishments and faux name badges, the once hardy hallmark has been transformed into a splashy party piece. Still not in stitches? Look to the novelty garb of New York-based Thom Browne, who accessorised preppy tennis vests and ice-white sheer skirts with bright red sausage dog-shaped handbags. And Moschino, where Jeremy Scott invited us to question the implications of modern recycling through whimsical dustbin lid hats and elaborate ballgowns crafted from household detritus including bin bags and bubble wrap. One person’s trash really is another’s treasure.

Tasty toast bags at Loew; sequins and glitter were out in full force at Gucci

At Loewe, Jonathan Anderson took a different tack and articulated the mood through imaginative craftsmanship. Chunky Fair Isle sweaters segued into washed silk, before exploding into pleated polka dots; aeroplane pendants swung from long necklaces and checkerboards of plissé silk punctuated long day dresses, while accessories paid homage to baked goods with toast-emblazoned totes. Elsewhere, Clare Waight Keller declared that the final show of her impressive six-year tenure at Chloé was a lesson in ‘psychedelic optimism’. Though there wasn’t a madcap sequin or comic accessory in sight, she told WWD that the entire collection – from rainbow mohair sweaters to shearling swing coats – was designed to ‘provide a sense of escapism.’

Look-at-me marabou feathers at Balenciaga; elaborate feather headresses at Prada

Fortunately, whether your own ticket to planet fantasy comes in the form of a dazzling beret or a more subdued leather skirt, the great British high street provides a multitude of options. Topshop’s slouched silver sequin boots are a dream ticket for maximalists, as are the miniature faux fur handbags from Zara (especially when worn with a matching faux fur coat). In a nod to Vetements, Asos has whipped up a series of romantic floral dresses with structured shoulders and ruffled trims that will look as good with simple white trainers now as they will with glossy ankle boots and tights come January. Elsewhere, classicists will fawn over Arket’s sharp, silk-blend shirting or the plush merino jumper dresses served up by Cos. Now’s the time to devise your own flight of fancy.

  • Words: Natalie Rigg

  • Photography: Anthea Simms,, Prada / Instagram