The season, which was once limited to basics and clichés of the blue-and-white striped variety, is now a legitimate bellwether when designers break new ground.
"There's such a great emphasis on resort that [the season] seems longer and even more important than it already was," said Michael Fink, vice president, women's fashion director at Saks Fifth Avenue. "It's always been a very important season. Now it has high glamour attached to it. Resort used to be an easy, quick, throw-in-a-suitcase kind of collection and basics. Now it's all of that, plus resort is introducing fashion and introducing new ideas. Resort collections are becoming fully rounded. There's more offerings across the board."
Fink saw plenty of ideas, from wide, high-waisted pants to body-conscious suits and clingy dresses.
"The use of color is just outstanding," he said. "We're not seeing the classic navy and white, we're seeing tropical fruit colors for resort. We're seeing the fascination with fabric technology, with coated fabric and painted fabrics. In accessories, there's a wonderful evolution from high-heeled pumps for fall into sexy high-heeled slides for resort."
Linda Fargo, senior vice president and fashion director at Bergdorf Goodman, said: "This is a good time for designers to experiment with introducing new capsule collections. Lanvin has a bridal group geared for flying in and traveling in. It was sparked conceptually by the idea of resort."
If there was any doubt that resort's status and stature is inching closer to that of spring and fall ready-to-wear, look no further than Milly, which recently flew about 75 fashion editors to a resort in Punta Mita, Mexico, to experience the collection.
"Talk about elaborate presentations," said Ann Watson, fashion director at Henri Bendel. "They wined and dined 75 people, some of whom brought their friends and families. [Milly] is more of a contemporary resource compared to a luxury brand whose stagings were equally elaborate, particularly in the case of Chanel."
Fargo said elaborate resort presentations were the news last year when "Dior and Chanel did really full-out shows." This year, young firms, such as Proenza Schouler and Thakoon, are getting their toes wet with first-time resort collections. "Fantastic," Fargo said of the collections. "We're thrilled."Designers are also presenting resort lines through small-scale fashion shows, Fargo said. "They have the models, the chocolates and the look books at the ready," she said. "Behnaz Sarafpour took a suite at the Pierre Hotel and Calvin Klein did a small informal show."
Fargo understands the pressure resort collections can put on a smaller fashion house's resources. Why are more designers doing it then? "It's a way to grow your business," she said. "We'll ask designers, 'When do you think you'll be ready to create that in-between collection?' We'll push them. But we're not going to put seed money out there for them."
"I'm excited to see that designers are treating resort collections as equally important as their big runway collections," said Bendel's Watson. "Resort communicates what the brands feel is important and what we feel is important. It used to be that the big editorial stories would come from the runway." Today, resort generates almost as much news, she said.
Henri Bendel, which receives resort deliveries at the end of October or beginning of November, has seen increased interest from consumers in the season. While resort has gotten bigger, it hasn't negatively affected spring buys. "They're completely separate budgets," Watson said. "What resort does is extend spring."
Julie Gilhart, senior vice president and fashion director of Barneys New York, disagreed on the budget point. "Both resort, as well as pre-spring collections are eating into spring," she said. "In many cases our runway budgets are a lot less due to the proliferation of more clothes available earlier. The resort and pre-spring collections have gotten so much better over the last few seasons. Instead of basics, these deliveries include important looking pieces."
Barneys starts receiving resort collections in mid-October. The season continues into November and December. "The delivery periods and the availability of spring-like clothes has definitely been extended," Gilhart said. "Also, the time spent in market is extensive — starting in May and ending in December. It is definitely the never-ending market."
With the rising stature of resort, designers aren't skimping on materials. "Nothing is compromised due to the timing," Watson said. "Resort fabrics are more transeasonal and give you a longer life span. Those collections are on the floor longer than runway."Resort lends itself to a wide range of products. "It's a great time to add on some lifestyle items like a beach bag and towel," Watson said. "More hair accessories were coming down the runway for resort collections. It's whatever lifestyle categories fit resort."
Watson praised designers' use of color and "terrific prints. I'm excited to see a return to embellishment and the continuation of a more dressed-up look, which creates a great need for a luxe lifestyle where sport chic fits in. There's also a continuation of jewelry, which goes back to a more dressed-up look."
Ken Downing, senior vice president and fashion director at Neiman Marcus, agreed. "Fashion continues to be much more dressed up," he said. "The dress has made designers look at jackets again and toppers. There's the new jacket with interesting sleeve details matched to a bottom. We're seeing this great jacket moment happening with skirts.
"There's an enormous amount of color," he added. "There were so many great-looking prints, from strong geometrics to painterly-inspired big, bold brush strokes. Ombré is so chic and fabrics have a bit of a foreign intrigue like the Ikat from Nicolas Ghesquière. There were also green fabrics with bamboo and with raffia. Sheen and shine continue. I also saw details such as shredded or tattered organza petals or leaves that resembled feathers."
Downing said he has lately noticed more of "the younger designers on Seventh Avenue who showed spring and fall collections introducing pre-fall collections. For Doo.Ri and Thakoon, brands that weren't in the resort market, it's an important selling period and a great season."
For Neiman's customers, resort has become a buy-now, wear-now season. "Resort is a big market," Downing said. "It's certainly a longer selling season. We see resort arrive in stores in early to mid-November."
"Cruise is getting big now," said Cedric Charbit, general merchandise manager at Printemps in Paris. "Our sell-through is great on early deliveries and our customers clearly identify with cruise as a new season. They want it like never before." To deal with demand, Charbit strives to get early deliveries. "The buy shouldn't be so safe so early in the season," he said. "The more basic items should be delivered all season long so they don't go on sale."This season, brands made a statement and moved forward," he said. "Our favorites were Louis Vuitton, Miu Miu and Dolce & Gabbana." The latter's khaki and leopard story was "very modern," Charbit said, also citing Miu Miu's nude, purple and turquoise dresses; wide-legged denim from Chanel and Paul & Joe; long floral dresses from Yves Saint Laurent, Stella McCartney and Prada; knits at Chanel and Gucci; kaftans at Dior, and Seventies-inspired purple pants from Miu Miu. "Accessories are key," he said. "They give a cruise look to a winter wardrobe. I loved Chanel's 'matelasse' bag."
Evelyn Gorman, who owns Mix, a luxury multibrand boutique in Houston, said the resort season is getting longer. "I'm seeing resort and pre-collections from designers who previously did only one collection per season. They must do it to be competitive, especially when the budget devotes such a sizable portion to these deliveries. I found myself going into my budget formula and readjusting for the two pre-collection deliveries."
Now that designers are placing more emphasis on resort, fashion magazines are obliging with more coverage. "The resort collections are receiving quite a lot of press from both fashion and lifestyle publications," Gorman said. "These collections are no longer an afterthought but a serious and intentional expression from the designers. They further [underscore] the point of view of the label."
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