Why punk is the new pink, plus the other autumn trends you need to know
The blend between men’s and womenswear continues with a return to sharper looks with a stronger, more goth-like edge
The autumn-winter 23 men’s and womenswear shows were a tale of two characters: the imperfect, raw and roughed-up punk versus the pared-back precision of the uniformed worker. If one aesthetic typically represented resistance and the other that there’s comfort in numbers, this season, designers deconstructed these personas, exploring the reality that patterns can exist in nonconformity as much as eccentricity in homogeny.
The new collections feel like a back-to-school sobering up after the giddiness of summer’s Barbiecore. For those of you who found Barbiecore too hardcore, both punk and precision dressing will feel like a reprieve from the overwhelm of candy-floss-coloured everything that endured over the past couple of months.
Actress Florence Pugh provided a welcome punctuation to all of the frothiness in July when she showed up to Silverstone for the Formula 1 British Grand Prix sporting a tightly cropped haircut, nose ring and hand-painted denim jacket from her collaboration with artist Joy Yamusangi.
She personified next-generation punk, complete with perfectly applied red lip. Similarly, actor Emma Corrin pitched their tailored look for Wimbledon perfectly, choosing a buttery shorts suit and tie that embraced this season’s subversive take on white-collar worker style beautifully.
If Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling were the poster couple for spring summer ‘23 fashion, it’s the late Vivienne Westwood who embodies the essence of autumn-winter’s aesthetic and attitude. For this season, punk is the new pink, and whether you’re a distressed denim wearer or a shirt and jacket devotee, the mentality of unorthodoxy can be found in both camps.
An ode to an icon, collections such as Moschino, Burberry, Maison Margiela and Valentino celebrated the legendary grand dame of fashion, who passed away last December, with a punk look that blended sweet with subversive and demonstrated not so much a belligerent, kiss-ass mentality but a sexy, kick-ass attitude.
This was grunge for grown-ups, and Pugh’s rose-bud-red pout was right on brand. There was delight in disorder everywhere. At Moschino womenswear, creative director Jeremy Scott, a self-described rebel at heart, took ‘establishment’ tropes such as houndstooth and skirt suits, literally and figuratively warping them into volatile-looking shapes and silhouettes.
Topped and tailed with sky-high stilettos and oiled-up mohawks, the catwalk characterisation might have appeared unrelatable, but there was plenty of commercial appeal in the form of black double-breasted blazers, biker jackets and ankle boots.
Irish-born, London-based stylist and image consultant Brian Conway believes that most of us have the bones of a punk look in our wardrobes. “Take some classic black tailoring, such as a blazer dress or a black coat and style it up with a couple of pieces of spikey jewellery like a choker or cuffs,” he says simply. Luxury Irish jewellery brand Edge Only’s collection of unisex sculptural ear cuffs will convincingly take a conventional black jacket or shirt into rebel territory, while chain-adorned belts and bags can inject a frisson of malevolence to an otherwise benign monochrome look.
Punk is not defined by black, though, and neither were the catwalks. Daniel Lee’s highly anticipated reinvention of British heritage brand Burberry took a distinctly rebellious turn, not least for its foray into colour.
Its signature brand of beige was abandoned for acid yellows, vibrant blues, punchy reds and regal purples across men's and womenswear. It may sound like the sugary palette of eighties pop culture, but it took on an anarchic seventies vibe when reimagined as tartan suit trousers, super-sized trench coats and deconstructed kilts.
Visible hardware, silhouettes that swamped and in-your-face accessories performed like a middle finger up to tradition – brand Burberry’s that is. If Lee was respectfully nodding to the fashion legacy left by Westwood, he was also respectfully signalling a new phase for Burberry under his own brand vision.
Maison Margiela continued the colour theme with unexpected sprinklings of peppermint, blush and lavender amongst a tirade of gothic tulle and spliced-up separates, which were styled on male and female models in a modern, gender-fluid fashion.
On the brand’s website, the collection is described as “a study of hand-me-downs and the gestures that imbue garments with life”. The hacked-up, second-hand look of this show’s back-to-front shirts, patchwork coats and twisted tulle skirts has always been at the heart of a punk aesthetic, and creative director John Galliano manipulated it to create a collection that suited everyone and no one at the same time.
With so many cultural and style references in each outfit – cowboy, Hawaiian, Americana and Hollywood were played off against punk – the point was, don’t try this at home. Do it your own way instead. Customisation and re-contextualisation were the brand’s buzzwords and Maison Margiela sent out a pointed message about dressing to suit yourself rather than lifting a look off the runway.
Valentino’s homage to seventies counterculture felt less anarchic and more exultant. Frill-front blouses and ethereal ostrich feathers disrupted the funereal black-tie aesthetic in a giddy, girlish manner that felt equally relevant to men and women. The show was irreverent in several ways, one of them the peppering of pretty motifs like bows and roses on the stomping tribe of neo-punks with piercings, tattoos and heavily lined, Wednesday Addams-inspired eyes he sent down the runway. This was subculture style with a winsome charm.
Andreas Kronthaler for Vivienne Westwood, meanwhile, paid tribute to his wife of almost 30 years and her legacy with archival Westwood designs and signature pieces – pirate boots, corsetry, petticoats, deconstructed silhouettes and gender-fluid styling were rolled out like an A-Z of Westwood’s career highlights.
In some collections, preppy white-collar style and punk overlapped. At Fendi’s womenswear show, Kim Jones took elements of punk and repurposed them into an exploration of uniform dressing, injecting utter freshness into the archetypal clothing of the everyday. Artistic director Jones used the term “twisted” to describe his method of deconstruction, reflecting very much the DIY essence of punk mentality and style.
Yet his focus was firmly on the mainstream and utilitarian rather than the anarchic elements in our wardrobes: macs, ‘school’ shirts, capes, waistcoats, pleated skirts. Much of the originality came from Jones’ hybridisation of these traditional pieces, with caped shoulders attached to waistcoats and masculine pants reimagined with kilt-like overskirts.
Prada’s menswear collection was probably the most succinct presentation of uniform basics elevated for the modern consumer. Working with archetypal mens’ wardrobe staples – duffle coats, bomber jackets, long-line blazers, collars (which floated, devoid of traditional shirting) and parkas – the brand injected subtle but meaningful variations that lent each item a new relevance.
Utilitarian workwear was also subverted, with suede work aprons reimagined as tunics and worn under smart topcoats. Achieved primarily through silhouette and cut, the collection, which featured no pattern except those on a few pointed collars, was the epitome of less is more. It was a universe away from the elaborate styling and layers of texture and print seen at the Maison Margiela show, but it was equally compelling.
There was a minimalism to Prada’s womenswear offering too, though it was less stark. Uniform dressing was reimagined through an evening wear lens, with floor-skimming fishtail shirtdresses, origami flower-embellished pencil skirts and bow-adorned flats with glamorous, exaggeratedly pointy toes.
Outerwear was one of the strongest elements in both of the Italian heritage brand’s collections, and the coat that’s trending most heavily for this season is a long grey style, seen not just at Prada, but at Victoria Beckham, Max Mara, Loewe, Gucci and Michael Kors, among others.
Conway, who invests in a coat each autumn-winter, recommends Budapest brand Nanushka. “It’s an online store, but there’s a beautiful townhouse store in Mayfair in London that doubles as a coffee shop and it’s an interior lover’s dream. My last purchase there was a stunning mocha brown cashmere drop shoulder coat that I live in during the colder months,” he says. It may seem eye-rollingly predictable to talk about investing in a coat for autumn-winter, but the pleasure to be had from the cocooning folds of a brand new piece of outerwear in the frosty morning freshness of September is the adult equivalent of starting school with a new pencil case.
It never gets old. Cos currently has a fantastic double-faced grey coat in its men’s collection and an exquisite longer-length light grey trench for women. With its shorter length, the men’s option may suit many women better though.
Both punk and uniform dressing have allowed designers to continue their close dialogue between men’s and womenswear, with more and more collections showing men and women together in looks that feel effortlessly interchangeable.
Simone Rocha, for instance, revealed that the menswear range she launched last year is as big a hit with her female customers as her male, while every look in Prada’s menswear show could have sat just as comfortably within its womenswear offering.
There’s a homogeny and unorthodoxy in creating clothes that refuse to define, categorise or polarise, and this feels especially apt in a season where designers are uncovering the overlaps between not just fashions but identities and communities too.
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