For better or worse, boxy’s the big shape now

The constant need to do something new, which seems to be the push factor in fashion, works in various ways. One has to think out of the regular, but a certain conformity is practical. Conventional pretty is not enough — an entertaining controversy erupted recently when Oscar de la Renta wrote an open letter to The New York Times critic Cathy Horyn when the latter called him the “hot dog” of American fashion. Creators of clothes one looks up to are those with an ability to simplify or complicate in unusual ways.

Japan’s most significant influence on fashion has been the boxy silhouette that has characterised recent collections. Translating to a certain contour aloofness — wider shoulders, thicker sleeves, waist parallel to shoulders instead of being tucked in — the boxy shape has featured in Spring/Summer 2013’s most important labels. These include Stella McCartney, Givenchy by Riccardo Tisci, Kenzo, Lanvin, Roland Mouret, Balmain, Hussein Chalayan, Rick Owens, Ralph Lauren, David Koma, Marni, Etro, Antonio Marras, and Prada. Not always is boxy the most flattering shape. But it’s a good way to illustrate that there’s more than one way to look good.

Balmain is most popular for its trophy jackets — strong shoulders, nipped waists, flatteringly slim. While the reinvention of the trophy jacket started under new creative director Olivier Rousteing last season itself, this time it was characterised by a width that left many wondering if things were pushed a bit too far. A certain why-fix-what’s-not-broken sentiment.

Alber Elbaz at Lanvin, mostly unabashedly sexy and feminine, toughened things up a bit with the boxy silhouette — a bit of a contrast to last season’s peplum-and-ruffle bit. (The swimsuit-over-trousers trend might be a lasting legacy of this collection.) Trendsetter Miuccia Prada, after making purple and dip-dyed hair the rage last time, went all-out Japan for Spring/Summer 2013 — geisha platforms, kimono folds, carton-wide silhouette.

Boxy’s all over the Big Four runways. With a certain Hedi Silmane at YSL, though, slim might again be back.