Just like all artistic movements, fashion trends can be rather reactionary and are much like a clock's pendulum: one season they swing one way, the next, it's the exact opposite. But on occasion, the oscillating plumb manages the deft trick of being in two places at once. This season happens to be one of those rare and noteworthy times. On one end of the spectrum, the reigning houses of Balmain, Lanvin, and Roberto Cavalli grabbed headlines with conspicuously opulent looks consisting of lust-worthy lamé dresses and brocade jackets that added up to a very disco Versailles look. However, the flip side is equally intriguing and thrilling in its own right, thanks to the minimalist sensibilities championed by Celine, Stella McCartney, Giambattista Valli and The Row. Just as directional as the aforementioned baroque-and-roll-inspired styles, the markers of this pared-down look are neutral colors, clean and well-executed lines, and a mixture of subtly luxurious fabrics. The resulting ensembles offer a strikingly powerful and cerebral approach to dressing, which we adore.
In order to further examine this trend, first it's important to take a closer look at the runway shows that spawned this new order. One of the predominant themes of this aesthetic is a melange of sophisticated materials, such as leather (both buttery soft and patent) and silk (manipulated to be matte and sheer). Additionally, this restrained trend relies heavily on the use of classic neutral colors-black, white, gray, navy, camel-worn in either a pair or monochromatically. The look requires unfussy, menswear-inspired lines, as they lend themselves the movement's strict and timeless feeling better than say, cutouts, ruffles, or billowing layers. While these tenets might seem lackluster to some, we find the very idea of this simplicity compelling, revolutionary, and surprisingly sexy in its Spartan confidence and strength.
All of today's featured collections hit upon the primary concepts that make up this modern minimalism, albeit in slightly different ways. Mixed materials were particularly eye-catching at Celine's F/W 10 show, where Phoebe Philo charged forward with her signature sleek style and paired a Cream Silk Crepe de Chine Fringe Blouse ($1900) with a Black Bonded Lamb Pleated Skirt ($4600) and Black Leather Boots ($1290). Similarly, at The Row's presentation, models came out in all-black ensembles like the featured one above, which consists of the label's Bevins Black Silk Dress ($1900), Campbell Black Silk Corset ($975) and Christian Louboutain sandals that weren't produced for sale. That said, the Olsen sisters' use of a colorless palette, slouchy pants, and maxi-skirts imbued the collection with a sense of effortless anonymity, while the models at Celine, who were given severe side-parts and slicked-back hair, seem to channel the same assuredly sexy, working woman who appeared to be Stella McCartney's F/W 10 muse. McCartney's unfussy separates, consisting of cozy sweaters, Wool Flanner Turn-Up Pants ($735) and flawlessly punctuated by tan Patent Pointed Slingbacks ($645) provide perfect office-wear inspiration. Finally, we look to Giambattista Valli's F/W 10 collection-which picked up on another fall trend by incorporating a camel-colored Felted Wool Cape Coat ($5222)-for further runway insight. While Valli's turn at minimalism did make use of many of key elements including a spare palette and a dose of textural intrigue in the form of Silk Satin Toe Silk Satin Toe Pumps ($907), his brand was a bit less stark and more conventionally feminine with shorter hemlines, kitten eyes, and slightly mussed up hair.
Now that we've taken an in-depth look at our runway inspirations, we'd like to turn our attention to one of our most beloved stylesetters to show us how to translate this look for real life. Unsurprisingly, Mary-Kate Olsen was one of the first of our fashion-favorites to be spotted in a directional, sophisticated, minimalist ensemble, and, as she is perennially on the cutting-edge cusp, we immediately knew this aesthetic was one to note. To attend Fashion's Night Out Kick-Off Press conference in New York earlier this month, Olsen left her usual bohemian-sophisticate layers behind and opted for The Row's Norbury Blouse ($650) and Lamwood Skirt ($500), an iconic Hermes Kelly bag, and Giuseppe Zanotti Sandals ($995) for a killer professional look that, despite the lack colors and accessories and trends at play, still stays true to her personal style. How so, you may ask? Well, not only do her gladiator stiletto sandals add signature edge to her tout-noir ensemble, but the very fact that she is starkly opposing her usual bill of fare is inherently insouciant and chic. Overall, the impression we're left with is that of a very confident and daring dresser and an outfit that is just as eye-catching and worthy of emulation as fall's other more extravagant looks.
In order to recreate these streamlined looks for yourself, we rounded up a few products to get you started. While we realize many of these items are investment pieces, they're also inherently versatile wardrobe stapes that can be worn for both today's featured trend and other key fall looks, so they're really a fail-safe expenditure! A silky button-down shirt, similar to the styles shown at Celine, is an absolute necessity for the modern minimalist look. Try a sleek and functional piece like Equipment's Classic Silk Shirt ($174) in Nature White or French Connection's Shakira Silk Shirt ($108) with either a mid-calf leather skirt à la the aforementioned maison, or style it with another fall-worthy duo: a pleated leather mini-skirt and leopard-print booties.
As for your lower half, we recommend investing in a great pair of dark cigarette pants-an absolute essential-like A.L.C.'s version ($349), Thakoon's Cigarette Pants ($525), or Vanessa Bruno Athe's Tencel Armor Pants ($317). If it's The Row's incognito all-black look that has you dying to try out this restrained luxury, pick up a black maxi skirt like LNA's Black Stripe Column Skirt ($112), or Topshop's Maxi Slip Skirt ($80), or opt for a similar silhouette in dress-form with The Furies' Black Katsu Gown ($112), and Topshop's Scoop Back Maxi Dress ($55). Feeling like you'd like to cozy up to a Valli-inpsired fall look? Pair your swiss dot tights and two-tone pumps with Diane von Furstenberg's Loren Coat ($695) or Cacharel's Double Feutre Dolman Coat ($995). Finally, to ensure your taste level is the subject of all envy, select a sophisticated, impeccably tailored dress to wear with kitten heels. We can't wait to slip into Calvin Klein Collection's Collingwood Dress ($2395), Calvin Klein Collection's Terall Dress ($1095), and Derek Lam's Long Sleeve Dress with Black Trim ($1390) for our next big meeting or dressy, after-hours occasion.-Liza Kaplan
Photos of Stella McCartney, The Row, and Giambattista Valli, courtesy of First View; photo of Mary-Kate, courtesy of INF.