Spring/summer 2010 is not about one outstanding or even half a dozen trends. It's more about a mood. Or should that be a muse? Although international designers came up with opposing views of what is fashionable - from tough, mannish safari jackets to fluttery floral slip dresses (or both) - they all appeared to agree about the sort of woman who should be wearing them: urban-dwelling, feminine, powerful and in control all the way from her "messy dressy" beehive to her clumpy, mid-heel stilettos. And her nails should be painted a shade of greige.
There's been a seismic shift in attitude from last autumn/winter. This season is still about being dressy, just not overdressed. Alber Elbaz redefined this modern elegance with his draped silhouette, which echoed the womanly hourglass even in a jump suit without ever making it retro. If there is a fashion uniform this spring, it's a sharp jacket - anything from a tailored blazer to a military shirt or utility parka - worn over a soft dress. But that dress could be anything from frilly, fragile and floor-length in a powdery pastel (Ralph Lauren) to an above-the-knee mini, swathed and cinched with a military belt (Burberry).
Mind-blowing print is key. The kaleidoscopic metamorphic animal ones by the late Alexander McQueen are curiously overpowering. And yet the palette is most definitely neutral: nude, blush pink, salmon, black, white or khaki. Along with these shades, a hint of jungle safari is another pervasive mood. Phoebe Philo at Celine pushed this more towards utility with her stand-out collection that set, if not the tone, than a look of the moment.
Chloé, Jean Paul Gaultier, Balmain, Sportmax, Isabel Marant and Stella McCartney offered ways to update camouflage, combats, shorts and army jackets, using chiffon, printed parachute silk, sequinned knits and hand-tooled leather. What is the It-item? The modern abstract dress, perhaps, sometimes worn under a bodice or military harness, giving a nod to the underwear-as-outerwear trend that was championed by John Galliano for Dior.
Sporty grey marl track pants, slouchy knits and rolled-up slouchy shorts are being hailed as "sport chic". As you might expect in a season in which looking womanly is key, there are lots of dresses, along with the sort of feminine pieces that combine comfort and glamour. Say hello to featherweight knits, weightless dresses, grown-up pencil skirts and trouser shapes other than skin-tight. The New York design duo Proenza Schouler came up with a good case for a skirt comeback, as did Donna Karan, a designer who practically invented the sort of unfussy femininity this season supports. For more new-season know-how, read on.
Power woman Not to be confused with the office chic power-dressing mindset of the 1980s, this is about the stylish essentials real women will adore. Glamour-infused new minimalism starts with a trophy jacket, this season's key cover-up, which is the essential body armour required for spring 2010. It must be structured, but a tough utility shirt with strong shoulders will do, just so you can pull every look together, from billowing shirts to flimsy slips or one-shoulder toga dresses, grey jeggings or a tough leather skirt. Marc Jacobs's dark coats over delicate frills hit the right note.
Invest in a strong belt (everything is belted), a whopping statement necklace or tasselled tribal scarf and warrior woman shoes - preferably with a cuff, straps and a scary heel. There's nothing girlie about this woman. "This season we are inspired by the fantasy of Tim Walker pictures and historical and modern glamorous figures like Marchesa Luisa Casati, Grace Kelly, Queen Rania of Jordan and Sheikha Moza Al Misnad," says Salama Alabbar, the CEO of Symphony Style, which owns and operates Temperley London stores in the Dubai Mall and Abu Dhabi's Marina Mall and is opening a concept boutique, Symphony, in Dubai Mall in April. "Strong, feminine and independent women are our muses and set the current mood."
Military You've seen military jackets before but probably not like Balmain's. The nimble-fingered French designer Christophe Decarnin knows exactly how to inject rock-star glamour into the simplest army classic. Blame him for the skinny distressed combats and tasselled leather biker jacket combo that is a key look for spring. He's also got something to do with slashed, slouch T-shirts, shredded jeans and luxe grunge knitwear being of-the-moment. But he certainly wasn't alone in putting military jackets on the catwalk.
"This season the runway became a battlefield for glamorous war goddesses looking to conquer the fashion world," says Sofia Guellaty, the editor-in-chief of the Abu Dhabi-based high fashion magazine Unfair, which, interestingly, is championing the military look as an evening wear rather than day trend. "Think ethnic and chic glamazons. From top haute couture Arab designers like Zuhair Murad, who was inspired by the Russian army for his latest collection, and Qasimi, with his warriors from Byzantium in sequinned armour, to the military inspired Balmain dresses and Louis Vuitton jackets. Every girl should have a big 'declaration of war' statement piece in her wardrobe," says Guellaty. Complete the look with a gold lace Repossi cuff and Linda Farrow sunglasses and you are ready to go.
Prints vs pastels: mix and match Eye-popping patterns, ikats, digi, urban and animal prints, Arabic geoprints from Kenzo and mad, graphic 3D imagery might have dazzled at the international runways (and the public when some shows were livestreamed), but the mouth-watering ice cream sorbet and candyfloss shades are tipped to have maximum impact when they land in shops and boutiques globally. Neutrals look startlingly modern en masse or teamed with an item in a vivid colour. "It's such a relief to see some feminine detailing and a lighter approach from the designers generally, especially in colour," says Alabbar.
"Symphony is a very feminine and youthful concept, so it was an absolute pleasure to buy into the trends which felt almost especially made for our target clientele and concept. Collections from Erin Fetherston, Christian Siriano, Vera Wang, Jason Wu and Kaviar Gauche focus on pastel and nude colours as well as featuring on-trend detailing like ruffles, digital prints and sheer fabrics. We also bought into feminine colours like lilac, rose and magenta." Guellaty says: "What we are loving about spring/summer trends is that everything is possible, more is more. There are no more rules. "So you can mix your Givenchy Arab-inspired jumpsuit with an Erdem floral jacket and Louis Vuitton sunglasses. And if you are less keen on experimenting, pay a tribute to the late Alexander McQueen for a full-on-print effect."
Dress me up They come in various guises: knee-length, short trapeze and long and tiered; fitted but never tight. On the catwalks, dresses were inspired by lingerie or even worn over corsets or bras. Sportswear and summer holiday themes resulted in mesh inserts (Alexander Wang) and palm tree prints (Prada). Flouncy tulle in nude shades gave a bridal feel at Chanel and Chloé. There was silver (Prada) and gold lamé (at Marc Jacobs). Romantic frills (Givenchy) contrasted with raw-edged realism in crunchy cotton (Meadham Kirchhoff). There were florals at Stella McCartney, gingham embellished with crocheted necklines, lace and bows. The fashion pendulum swung from glamazon to utility and caused wildly different styles, yet it was still all about the dress.
"Our bestseller is long, tiered and slightly A-line," says Angela Gilbery, a designer whose company supplies high street chains including Dorothy Perkins and Miss Selfridge. "There is an overall more fluid shape this season," says Alabbar. "This will come into its own in Dubai's sweltering summer climate. Bright colours always do very well, so we have bought lots of these. And, as always, we have acted like magpies and picked things with bling because in Dubai, bling always does well."
Accessories Neckpieces have taken over from the humble necklace. At Lanvin and Bottega Veneta, these looked like shrapnel left over from the 1969 Moon landing. Killer heels have shrunk to kitten heels, too. Other new accessory trends include clogs (crucial), bumbags, rucksacks, across-the-body satchels, "granny"-style embroidered bags, decorative heels and modern avant-garde future heirlooms by the jeweller Zelia Horsley.
"The spring trend we are absolutely backing this season is mid-heels," says Holli Rogers, the buying director of the cool online boutique Net-a-Porter, which is particularly successful in the UAE. "I guarantee that once you purchase a pair they will become the hardest working item in your wardrobe. They make a refreshing change from the super heels that have dominated the runway over the past few seasons but still offer you that bit of extra height, meaning that every girl can wear them. I recommend the suede pair with metallic gold overlay by Givenchy. They are so chic and will take you effortlessly from day to night."
This season, smaller "cult" accessory labels will take on the big-boy brands. "We have picked up on niche brands like Jennifer Behr, Citrine by the Stones, Sang A and Tarina Tarantino, which Blair Waldorf and Serena van der Woodsen covet on Gossip Girl this season," says Alabbar.