August 23, 2012

The Complexities of Embellishment

Embellishment has been distinguished thus far as one of the major trends of the Fall 2012 season. And for good reason, with high fashion's biggest names having walked ornate designs down the runways in February and every major fashion magazine putting their own spin on the embellished garments everyone has to offer.
I often receive the question from my non-fashion-absorbed kin of how designers know what will be trendy, as they marvel at different runway shows showcasing the same ideas as their fashion brethren. There are many forces at play, but I am always intrigued with cultural and societal influences that show up subtly in the shows each season.

I've been reading Elizabeth L. Cline's book Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion, which has been fascinating for me as a consumer who feels guiltiest shopping at H&M. (I won't get into it.) This is where embellishment comes in: the influence of fast fashion.
I define fast fashion as lower-quality and trend-focused, in other words, fashion that is made to last one season and then be discarded. Though the idea may be touchy for some, fast fashion mostly depends on copying (or near-copying) the designs of high-end and contemporary designers.
There is currently no way to prevent designers from stopping fashion design piracy, so instead they must find ways to combat it. Embellishment is perhaps a subsequent solution; such ornate detailing can hardly be transferred into a $30 dress at your local chain store.

Cline goes into many points to support her argument that I won't list here, but she also presents the theory that the growing influence and domination of fast fashion is actually driving the luxury market further into the zone of elitism. (I could talk for ages about this, but I'll restrain myself.)
Anyway, here comes embellishment once again. To further their high-end appeal, designers are reaching to extremes. Both Spring and Fall 2012 RTW runways showed dazzling details. Intricate embroidery, beading and gem-incrusted garments were all signatures in a host of shows. Naturally, because lavish embellishment epitomizes a regal air - and has done so for eons.

Dolce & Gabbana Spring 2012 incorporated vibrant stones and crystals.

Designers have kept with heavy embellishment for two main seasons now, so it will be interesting to see how the "trend" progresses.
Fall 2012 took a turn towards neo-Baroque, enlisting the notoriously luxurious color gold for the most complex designs. The subsequent looks felt as if they waltzed out of a Renaissance-era palace.

From top to bottom: Marni, Balmain, Bottega Veneta.

I'll conclude my over-conscious analysis by saying that I truly love embellishment. I adore the three-dimensional textures when I graze my hands over designs at nearby boutiques and the exotic feel that such details lend to today's fashion.
I'm a huge supporter of fashion as an investment. Although many of these garments are extremely pricey and perhaps not as timeless as a black leather bag, per se, I think one can find an incomparable joy in owning such a one-of-a-kind piece. Not so much in the materialistic side, but simply in reveling in the beauty of the craftsmanship and design, two characteristics that are growing sparse in fashion today.

I will say that the dry cleaning bill would be ridiculously expensive. 
So, although I write this the night before I plan to visit Barney's Warehouse Sale (I think you see where I'm getting at), I'll try to resist the pull of heavy embellishment in favor of finding these details in a more practical position.
Embellished garments will lead to equally exquisite accessories, of course. And I know few females who can resist a stunning handbag. I've selected some colorful (and extravagant) clutches:

Clockwise, from top left: Matthew Williamson embellished suede clutch (available here), Santi Bags Aztec embellished clutch bag (available here), Anya Hindmarch metallic glitter and leather Valorie clutch (available here), SANTI Mykonos sequin clutch (available here), Alexander McQueen embroidered satin box clutch (available here), Forever New Madeline embellished clutch (available here), Blackfrangipani bead-knitted purse (available here), Lanvin Sea Breeze embellished satin-covered metal clutch (available here), Kotur multicolor sequin Epsey clutch (available here).
Well, these aren't much more practical.

I'd love to hear your opinion on what I discussed in this post. Let me know if you're a fan of embellishment this season.


  1. So true - fast fashion chains could never perfect the detail put into these gorgeous pieces (although I can't lie - I'm a huge H&M fan)! I'm obsessed with all of those clutches - especially the Matthew Williamson one!

    Hope you have a great weekend! :)
    ♡jillysorelle in style

  2. hair salon oceanside NYAugust 24, 2012 at 5:42 AM

    This seems to be really a great collection of apparels in town, the best and trendiest.

  3. I LOVE embellishment, especially beads and sequins. I'm not a big fan of the color gold, so that won't work on me. I've never been able to afford the high-end designers, and I'm not sure I could bring myself to spend that kind of money for one piece, anyhow. But I love your analysis, and the book that you're reading sounds fascinating. I'm going to have to find it and read it myself. I love an intelligent fashion post.

  4. What a lovely post! My graduate collection/range for my end of year fashion show for college features quite a bit of embellishment and gold/brocade fabrics - I think embellishment can look so luxurious if done in moderation.

  5. Few people can afford these pieces. Sometimes it's just nice to look!

  6. Awesome, I'd love to see your collection! I agree - it's easy for embellishment to become tacky; there's a fine line.

  7. Did you see that the NYtimes had a review of the book you are reading up on their site this week? It might be worth checking out. I love embellishment--especially of the bebaroque-stocking variety. H&M just produced two embellished pieces, a sweater and a skirt, for this season and they look cheap--unlike a lot of their merchandise. I think part of the reason is that embellishment can be replicated but if the materials (i.e. the rhinestones) aren't produced nicely it doesn't produce as nicely. Great post!