The art of dressing down has dominated global fashion the past few years, with the success of labels such as Supreme and Vans overseas, and P.E Nation and Dead Studios in Australia. It's partly the result of a new generation of consumers shopping directly from social media – a marketplace where the Kardashian-Jenners have the power to make or break a label. It’s a movement that clicked easily with Australia’s laid-back lifestyle and obsession with activewear and streetwear. But this season, “making a night of it” is back.
There’s been a change on the runway and on the street: it feels like we’re finally ready to move past the silk slip dress and dispense with ’90s-style minimalism. Fashion is shifting in favour of dressing up. Modest, straight-line silhouettes are being replaced with exuberant, maximalist, sculptural dressing – it’s about leaving pragmatism behind and having some fun. Designers are embracing a “more is more” approach with bold colours, wildly decorative embroidery, architectural design, an abundance of velvet and other sumptuous materials. They’re telling us to not just go out, but to go all out.
Overseas, high-intensity gowns were seen on the spring-summer 2020 runway for Balenciaga, Valentino and Erdem; rhinestones prevailed at Burberry’s 100-piece show; and models paraded for JW Anderson in sparkles and crystals. Heavily embellished sequinned dresses, high-impact miniskirts, plunging necklines and metallic ruffles anchored Parisian label Isabel Marant’s showcase. Zimmermann and Prada both championed the cocktail micro-minidress with ’60s and ’70s-style prints.
In Australia, Ellery has long been known for its maximalist eveningwear, and its pre-fall 2019 showcase dials up the intensity. Eye-catching bubble-sleeve leather dresses are paired with sculptural, statement gold earrings, and dramatic, black-tie halter-neck dresses sit beside elaborate, asymmetrical tops and wildly flared pants.
Scanlan Theodore introduces rhinestone belts, silver sequinned tops and pleated skirts fit for all fine occasions, and Melbourne label Arnsdorf’s Martha dress makes a case for dramatic, layered tiers of fabric that fall languidly across the body. Art Club by Heidi Middleton (ex-Sass & Bide) has the taffeta Aster dress, with meringue-like puff sleeves, high side-splits and a black ribbon corsage belt.
Local label Jacinta James goes all out with Japanese leather chokers, and emerging designer Yousef Akbar’s floor-skimming gowns and sequinned dresses beg for a spin on a dance floor somewhere opulent. Dion Lee is experimenting with intricate lace as part of his spring 2020 collection, while Camilla and Marc’s Alexie eveningwear dress has supple suede, which cocoons over the hips, giving a sculptural silhouette. Even Sydney designer Anna Quan, known for her minimalist white shirts, has turned, adding a formal Japanese acetate gown in pink and green to her repertoire, alongside shimmery silk. And Adelaide’s Acler is having a dramatic moment with its sculptural midi dress in a bonded scuba fabric.
We’ve singled out just a handful of styles here – if you want to dress with abandon this season, the choices are legion. With summer garden parties, spring racing and new year celebrations around the corner, your maximalist fashion alter ego can have a field day.