How the designer shows influence your spring wardrobe
There is, if I may be frank, a great deal about catwalk shows to fuel the argument that fashion is a load of nonsense, from the vanity tantrums over seating arrangements to the disproportionate amount of time spent waiting around in a bubble of hot air and air kisses.
But after 11 years as a fashion editor and thousands of catwalk shows, I can honestly say that I wouldn't give them up for the world. There is both art and alchemy to a fantastic show, and when they are good, they are nothing short of magical.
I have been at fabulous catwalk shows that I have adored and applauded, despite the fact that I wouldn't wear a single dress. The whole point is that it is fashion as theatre. It's a dream world of endless legs and smoky eyes and sauntering in six-inch heels. For 15 minutes, we can forget the practicalities – will those pale silk trousers get mud splatters? Is it madness to buy a dry-clean only T-shirt? – and enjoy the power of fashion to make you feel something.
And although you wouldn't be seen dead in a micro-mini, or whatever this season's catwalk foible may be, a good fashion show will change the way you dress, sometimes without you quite realising it.
At some point in the coming months, you may find yourself drawn to pastel capri trousers or a gingham skirt. Or, when shopping for a wedding outfit, looking at a matching shift dress and duster coat. And at that point you will know that the spring catwalk has its claws into you. Cool, classic, pool-party American chic, set between the James Dean Fifties and the Mad Men Sixties, was a recurring theme.
In London, Jonathan Saunders displayed sweet old-fashioned sundresses. In Milan, Jil Sander placed gingham at the top table, while Prada put a new spin on sugary pastels, matching separates and the until-recently-sniffed-at notion of wearing what your grandmother might have called a 'suite' of jewellery.
Fashion doesn't exist in a vacuum. Gucci might not be solely responsible for the imminent return of Twenties flapper chic – Hollywood has leaned in this direction, with the gorgeous Midnight in Paris and upcoming The Great Gatsby – but the heady parade of black and gold flapper dresses seen on Gucci's catwalk was the spark that set alight what is becoming the hot party look. Likewise, Céline has been at the forefront of a movement towards lean tunics and trousers, ponytails and graphic lines.
Céline designer Phoebe Philo has managed to intuit how women want fashion to help them feel, and translate those intangibles into clothes that we can wear. The Céline show – and its effect on those watching – was like magic. This season saw a Japanese slant to Céline's silhouette. So, if you find yourself hovering next to some wide, flowing, zen-chic trousers in store, you might, just might, be experiencing that very catwalk magic for yourself.
This article originally appeared in the Spring 2012 issue of John Lewis Edition magazine