In Paris, Dries Van Noten’s finale featured the designer’s fine bohemian clothes for spring on the show’s young models, sprawled across a mossy carpet that ran the length of the runway. The effect was poetic, reminiscent of Sir John Everett Millais’ Pre-Raphaelite masterpiece Ophelia, which features its Shakespearean subject floating in a river just before she drowns.
Van Noten was just one of several designers reaching for romance for spring. Some were heavy on exquisite details: somber floral prints and jacquards, fils coupé and refined embroideries. The aesthetic nodded at the Arts and Crafts movement at the turn of the 20th century—at the time, a reaction to industrialization, a point made in the revival of decorative arts and handcraftsmanship. In England, it was led by artist William Morris and inspired many offshoots worldwide, including, for example, the Wiener Werkstätte in Austria, which left its mark on design from jewelry to furniture.
Van Noten said he was drawn to Arts and Crafts’ “curiosity, color, vibrancy and optimism. It was a modernist movement, yet radically based on the familiar, the warm and the bold. Its tenets seem in sync with the emotions of many today as we seek a return of romanticism, optimism, happiness and individualism.”
Whether intentional or not, Nicolas Ghesquière’s elaborate floral and nature motifs at Louis Vuitton channeled a similar vibe. Rodarte’s pearlescent, sequined and embroidered fishnet jacket and tank dress also evoked Arts and Crafts, as did Derek Lam’s cool, artfully patchworked suedes in combinations of brown, purple and lavender for coats, dresses and skirts. Jonathan Anderson, too, has been working the sentiment for his debut at Loewe.
“From the first piece of Arts and Crafts furniture I bought—a chair by Harry Napper—I became obsessed with the way it was built,” Anderson said. “There can be so much knowledge contained in an object. I like bringing things into my world that challenge me and require me to work out how someone came up with them, why they made the choices they made. Being confronted with ways of solving a problem that are not my own and with things I cannot make myself helps me crystallize my own solutions when I am designing.”
The first two new Loewe stores, in Tokyo and Milan, will incorporate Arts and Crafts furnishings, like a rare bench by Morris and a chair by Rennie Mackintosh.
As for its relevancy today, Anderson added, “To be modern now, you have to know what was modern before and before that, and also understand what exactly made it modern. With a lot of Arts and Crafts pieces, I am fascinated by how something that is from another period can still have such a modern force today.”