By and and and  on October 27, 2008

The future is old news. Exaggerated shapes, supertechy fabrics and digital prints aren’t quite the novelty they once were. So for spring, designers infused a careful mix of unique textiles and treatments into their collections to show a softer side of modern.

Miuccia Prada described her Milan showing as “archaic and primitive,” but the fabrics she used for her asymmetrical shifts—a cotton and metal blend—were anything but. Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana threw recession woes aside with their ultraluxe silk taffeta and duchesse brocades, fashioned into geometric jackets and skirts.

In New York, Diane von Furstenberg executed a few of her signature prints in beads and sequins as a structural element to shore up her fluid fabrics. Marc Jacobs delivered plenty of shimmer, most notably with a Strawberry Brocade and Leopard Lurex developed with Synergies Textiles. And at Tuleh, an ombré number with a treeprint overlay was a favorite of designer Bryan Bradley. While the piece read like abstract art wrapped into a suit for a future first lady, it was actually an homage to mid–20th century environmentalist Rachel Carson and was among many nods to Mother Earth.

Innovation took on an airy quality on London’s runways, with Roksanda Ilincic playing with gold and silver coatings on soft organzas and chiffons, while Louise Goldin tapped into Japanese technology with a superfine lightweight organza to create pale knit dresses. Five meters of Goldin’s material weighed less than a single egg.

In Paris, digitally engineered prints abounded at Alexander McQueen— perhaps the most startling, a stained glass–like design based on a blown-up photograph of crystals, their facets warped and tinted in four different colorways. The print was then engineered to fit the forms of a dressmaker’s dummy before being applied to fabrics such as jerseys, knits and silks. Elsewhere, McQueen’s natural history lesson centered on fusions of natural and man-made elements, while stunning, lab specimen–like frocks featured loose silk flowers trapped under tulle netting. And at Balenciaga, sequins and embroideries, such as pleated ribbons coated with shimmery films, were dazzling, and Nicholas Ghesquière took things even further with his use of bonded suede and gabardine paper. The matte fabrics absorbed and deflected light, providing a welcome contrast to the metallic sheen typical of all those futurists from yesteryear.

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