By  on April 12, 2010

Talk about contradictions. Designers looked to beautiful essentials while feeding their cyber obsessions with live-streamed shows and online sales.

Grasping the new, the bold, the unknown—an essential, at least when it comes to matters of the sartorial sort. Fashion is supposed to push ahead aggressively and unafraid, leading its devotees into uncharted lands the splendors of which we could not imagine until swept there on an adventurous stylistic wave. Or maybe that’s what we all like to think. Because from an overall design standpoint, the fall 2010 collections were less about intrepid exploration than celebrating the glories of that which we already know and love, a motif that held tremendous sway on runways from New York to Paris.

At this particular moment, familiar felt not only comforting and lovely, but chic. It didn’t play as an apology for the absence of imagination, but rather, as the stuff of serious, essential fashion. As Marc Jacobs noted before his show, “sometimes beautiful is enough.”

Showing as he does so early in the season, Jacobs established fall’s overarching motif of classics-plus, his runway an enticing lineup of neutral-toned greatest hits. Before the season drew to a close in Paris, he would be joined in his proclivities by numerous others, including Michael Kors, who went overtly luxe with pairings of fur and gray flannel; Dries Van Noten, who cross-pollinated various retro references, and Stella McCartney, who worked the sparest side of winter chic. And by Miuccia Prada, even if characteristically she managed to pervert Fifties-ish themes with her girls’ stiffly ruffled bosoms and slighted twisted secretarial air.

From beginning to end, numerous houses sang the song of self with undisguised delight. In a gorgeous 25th anniversary affair, Donna Karan celebrated the easy-pieces mantra on which she founded her house. Ralph Lauren took inspiration for his beautifully realized boho lineup in one of his own ads from 1993. At Gucci, Frida Giannini finally stopped fighting the steamy house history written a fashion lifetime ago by Tom Ford, and her acceptance resulted in a strong, sexy collection, while Donatella Versace went hot, colorful and flashy just like in the old days. Meanwhile, on the topic of roots, Domenico Dolce declared Dolce & Gabbana an ode to “sartorialità, like my father used to make,” as well as Sicilianità and sensualità—not to mention great style. Even relative babe Jason Wu did some backtracking of sorts, reimagining the meaty sportswear of his tough-chic pre-fall lineup through the lens of prettiness for which he’s known.

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