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The devil is in the detail for Spring/Summer 2004


Jo Iles looks at some of the more popular features of the Spring/Summer 2004 designer collections.

Pretty, feminine and romantic best describes the bulk of the Spring/Summer 2004 designer collections. With the economic climate still teetering precariously designers are sticking to the safe and saleable, channeling their creativity into unique and intricate design details.

Pleats Please – Pleats ruled the catwalk as they reappeared time and time again. At Gucci fans of pleats trimmed the edges of Tom Ford's Edwardian jackets, while Prada's 1950's inspired collection included knife pleated dresses and full skirts. Vertical Fortuny pleats made up most of Sophia Kokosalaki's collection, as she twisted, gathered and draped them in order to create her feminine forms.

Origami – Complex folds, pin-tucks, inlays, frills, ruching, bricolage and appliqués – all gave simple garments a unique designer twist. Preen served up their favourite recipe of re-construction as did Erika Trotzig who mixed up various fabrics, colours and styles – giving a patchwork like effect to her distinctive pieces. Mark Jacobs added plenty of layered up ruffles and cabbage rose corsages to his feminine collection, while Gucci went all out – with silks and chiffons that were twisted, ruched, folded and peeled away, proving to be somewhat of a challenge for those designer rip-off merchants out there!

Empire Lines – Bringing the waistline under the bust the empire line dress proved a popular shape for next spring with a close runner up being the baby-doll. Dolce & Gabbana and Alberta Ferretti created long, fluttery evening dresses out of their empire line shapes that looked luxurious enough to be shown as couture. Back in London – Ghost, Jasper Conran and Clements Ribeiro displayed their flirty knee length versions, which were also subtle enough to wear during the day.

Wide Slouchy Pants – Worn on the hips and cut wide on the leg, spring's slouchy pants arrive plain and easy.

Simple white versions with the minimal of fuss appeared at Tommy Hilfiger, Gibo by Julie Verhoeven and John Rocha. Slanted inset pockets aside, next seasons wide slouchy pants arrive detail-free balancing out the multitude of prints and intricate features prevalent elsewhere.

Intricate Necklines – Necklines became a focal point as designers incorporated jewellery, straps and artistic shapes into their creations. Twisted, sculptural neckpieces by Laura Bohnic fell into glossy chiffon evening frocks at the Rafael Lopez show. Roland Mouret opted for the more dramatic graphic touch with cut-out circles and strapping, while Jasper Conran kept his deep slashed necklines in place with a series of flat circular discs, metal links and leather tassels.

Floaty Jersey & Chiffon – Pretty floaty chiffon turned up on almost every catwalk, even the king of the razor sharp cut – Alexander McQueen showed a variety feminine bias-cut chiffon dresses. Embracing the less structured silhouette dress shapes ranged from the fit and flare to the dropped waist and the airy smock. Fitted busts cascaded into layers of chiffon at Chloe, Stella McCartney and Versace. Tops also got the delicate touch, complete with spaghetti straps and worn as daywear when combined with structured skirts, shorts and trousers.

Bows & Lingerie Features – A touch of a petticoat here, a flash of a suspender strap there, bows and lingerie features appeared in many guises. John Rocha showed his over-sized and dramatic bows around the neck, while at Lanvin signature satin bows created a romantic focal point of an open draped back. Skinny satin bow belts were drawn around the models waists at Viktor & Rolf and also proved to be a favourite accessory at Elspeth Gibson. At Dior garter belts suggestively hung from hemlines, a styling direction also taken on board by urban modernists Preen.

1920's vs 1950's Silhouettes – While Proenza Schouler, Marc Jacobs and Diane von Furstenberg continued to explore this winter's 1920's vibe, the likes of Prada, D&G and Betty Jackson decided to leap a few decades later.

Diane von Furstenberg reinvented her wraparound signature style with 20's features such as; dropped waists, hip sashes, scooped necklines and flapper style evening dresses. Art deco also continued to inspire in the form of prints and beading. Over in the 1950's camp slim-fit Capri pants, midi skirts, sundresses, pedal pushers and fitted cardigans all got the 2003 treatment. Avoiding a complete retro revamp Prada managed to update the 1950's look with a moodier colour palette and a smattering of distinctive prints.

Cut-away Side Sections – Focusing on the side of the body – spring's cut-away sections arrive in a subtler guise.

At Clements Ribeiro an empire line dress was pieced together leaving a small triangular cutout at the sides. Narciso Rodriguez created slithers of cutouts around the side hip area on his skintight dresses. Exposing more side flesh however, was Ashley Isham and Sass & Bide with their modern strappy takes on the tabard style.

Turn-Up Shorts – Shorts are the new mini skirts bringing the holiday vibe to the city. DKNY, Maxmara and Sophia Kokosalaki all agreed that shorts with turn-ups were a prerequisite for next season. Restyled for the working woman's wardrobe DKNY's shorts were given a clean finish with a wide d-ring belt, while Maxmara went for a more relaxed, 'explorer' shape combined with romantic chiffon tops. Other short designs included 'tailored' at Calvin Klein, 'tennis' at Lacoste and 'French knicker' styles to take the leggy look into evening.

Quality Prints – Prints are definitely a strong story for next spring and for those who dare the head-to-toe option is there.

Choice ranged from sketchy illustrations to op-art and stripes and continued into full-on floral overload – on show from the likes of Moschino and Dolce & Gabbana. Prints creating a stir over this side of the water include the graphic kaleidoscope of colour from newcomer – Jonathan Saunders and Eley Kishimoto's swirly three toned creations. Delicate dip-dyed chiffons in watery blues and greens graced the Stella McCartney catwalk, while Prada also got dipping with the hems of her dresses and skirts dyed in a contrasting colour.

2004 Is All About Colour – Neon brights may have been big news last summer but this time around they arrive as more of an accent on trims and prints. Yellow, which can be quite difficult is back once again after popular demand, Versace, Michael Kors and Roland Mouret all indulged. Strong hues such as lime green, cerise and orange were also paraded up and down the catwalks but it seems softer tones such as; cream, oyster, blush pink, pale blue, watery grey, soft green and tea stained tones will win the day.

White proved to be a popular base colour, along with black, soft grey and coffee coloured hues.

by Jo Iles

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