2011 Unzipped: Fashion’s Trends, Highs, Lows and Dramas

Ah what a year it’s been. As 2011 draws to a close, I thought it would be fun to look back on fashion’s highs and lows, and the moments we’ll never forget (and those we’d rather not remember!) Don’t forget to scroll down to read our awards. So long 2011!! 

Mass Attack

With so much uncertainty about the economy in Europe, designers stepped off their pedestals and hit the masses with gusto.  Ex-Valentino designer Alessandra Fachinetti turned her back on high fashion and joined forces with Italian label Pinko to launch Uniqueness, a season-less collection that was available online immediately after it was shown on the runway.

Target’s website crashed when its capsule collection with Italian brand Missoni debuted, while Donatella Versace struck gold with her line for H&M in November (Marni is coming up next year). Even Karl Lagerfeld got into the act by designing a capsule collection for American department store Macy’s before revealing that he would be designing a more “affordable” line called Karl exclusively online at net-a-porter.com in January.

Fashion 3.0

2011 was all about engaging consumers in new and personalised ways. While social media platforms such as Facebook remain the most popular channels (Burberry leads the pack with 9.5 million fans), specially directed films or videos became a huge trend. The most memorable was Lanvin’s quirky fall/winter campaign video which saw supermodels Karen Elson and Raquel Zimmermann dancing awkwardly to a Pitbull tune. Then you have cool new sites like Moda Operandi, an online luxury fashion retailer which allows members to pre-order runway pieces before they hit the stores. Getting your fashion fix has never been so fast.

Bride Wars

This year saw not one but three high profile weddings that were all about show-stopping fashion (and no, Kim Kardashian’s does not count). Supermodel and fashion royalty Kate Moss finally tied the knot with beau Jamie Hince at her Cotswolds home wearing a 1920s style bias cut gown designed by John Galliano. The supermodel even bagged a five-page spread in US Vogue shot by pal Mario Testino.

Earlier, South African swimmer Charlene Wittstock bagged a real royal, Prince Albert of Monaco. She walked down the aisle wearing a custom, off-the-shoulder Armani Prive gown, which channelled the elegance of the former Princess Grace.

Of the course the wedding that surpassed them all was that of Katherine Middleton and Prince William. For months the press speculated about which designer the Princess would choose for her dress but all was revealed when Alexander McQueen creative director Sarah Burton was spotted at Middleton’s London hotel the night before. The long sleeved silk and lace creation was elegant yet modern, further solidifying the new Princess’ status as a fashion icon. 

The McQueen effect

On the topic of McQueen, the British royal wedding was the first in a series of events that would further propel the brand into the international spotlight. Despite the tragic loss of its founder in 2010, McQueen experienced a renaissance thanks to new designer Sarah Burton. The brand unveiled its first retrospective, Savage Beauty, at The Metropolitan Museum in New York which drew 661,509 visitors, making it the eighth-most-visited exhibition in the museum’s history.

After dressing First Lady Michelle Obama for the China state dinner, McQueen opened its first store in Beijing with a fabulous party that saw the restaging of its autumn/winter Paris show. As the icing on the cake, Burton bagged the Designer of the Year award at the British Fashion Awards in November. Without a doubt, Lee McQueen would have been proud of the legacy he left behind.

New icons

Move aside Alexa Chung, the new girls are in town. While Pippa Middleton may have stolen the spotlight from her sister on her wedding day (she has a Facebook page devoted to her curvy behind), 2011’s style icons include actresses Dakota Fanning and Hailee Steinfield, who bagged the Marc Jacobs and Miu Miu campaigns respectively. Lady Gaga should also watch out – singer Nicki Minaj was recently seated next to Anna Wintour at New York Fashion Week. Surely a Vogue cover will follow in no time.

Dior Drama

How the mighty have fallen. The fashion year started with a thud when Christian Dior designer John Galliano was filmed at a Paris café making drunken anti-Semetic outbursts.  

The creative genius was soon fired and shipped off to rehab, leaving behind a flurry of speculation on who would fill the coveted spot he left behind.  The twitterati went crazy as the list grew with names including new fashion darling Haider Ackermann and LVMH alums Riccardo Tisci and Phoebe Philo. Marc Jacobs seemed to have had it in the bag until negotiations fell through. At time of press, Jil Sander designer Raf Simons was said to be close to sealing the deal. Watch this space!

Musical Chairs

Forget keeping up with the latest trends, who can keep up with the designers? Galliano wasn’t the only one who set tongues wagging – Brits Clare Waight Keller left Pringle for Chloé and Kim Jones left Dunhill for Louis Vuitton. Over in the French camp, Christophe Lemaire quit Lacoste for the coveted top job at Hermes while Christophe Decarnin’s no-show at Balmain’s autumn/winter show was quickly followed by his  resignation due to “depression.”

As the old guard abandoned their posts, new blood stepped in. If anything, 2011 was the year for Asian designers to shine. Indian Manish Arora was picked to revive Paco Rabanne, Cacharel enlisted Chinese designers  Ling Liu and Dawei Sun, and Opening Ceremony founders Humberto Leon and Carol Lim debuted a cool new look for Kenzo.  Italian/Japanese stylist Nicola Formichetti proved that he had talent beyond Lady Gaga when he took on the house of Mugler.

Risky Business

With the exception of Bernard Arnault’s acquisition of Bulgari, this year was all about the fashion IPO. In an attempt to heighten its profile in Asia, Prada chose the Hong Kong Stock market for its public offering, making it the second largest Hong Kong listing according to Dealogic. Companies like Samsonite, local jeweller Chow Tai Fook and Coach have followed suit. In other countries brands like Salvatore Ferragamo, Graff Diamonds and Michael Kors took the plunge. For Kors it paid off – he raised US$944 million, valuing his company at US$4 billion.

China Girls

China may still be struggling to launch a successful luxury brand, but its models are taking the world by storm. At the couture shows in January Riccardo Tisci of Givenchy made history by using only Asian faces for his presentation, including Ming Xi, Fei Fei Sun, Liu Wen, Shu Pei Qin and China’s first supermodel Du Juan. All the girls have landed major campaigns since then including Wen who was the first Asian model to walk in the Victoria Secret show. Local retailer Lane Crawford jumped on the bandwagon with its autumn/winter campaign featuring only Chinese models photographed by Mert Alas and Marcus Piggott.

And the Award goes to….

Worst debut: Kanye West – his fashion debut was squashed by every critic out there. Go back to singing dude.

Fashion darling: Haider Ackermann – his collection brought tears to every editor’s eyes.

Fashion baddie: Milan Fashion Week for impeding on London’s schedule.

Hottest trend: Colour-blocking – every designer had their own version.

Worst trend: Fetish – no one looks good in latex.

Busiest designer: Karl Lagerfeld – for adding two more lines to his already packed schedule.

Best collection: McQueen SS11 – Sarah Burton’s debut was a roaring success.

Best revamp: Humberto Leon and Carol Lim at Kenzo

Most wanted bag: Celine’s Nano – there are still waiting lists!

Must-have pieces: Stella McCartney’s citrus print closely followed by Givenchy’s panthers.

As published in SCMP on December 23, 2011

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