The pre-fall season is one often referenced by designers as a transitional period of wardrobing built to accompany their customers’ summer travels, day-to-day and officewear, events and, of course, fall-friendly carry-through layers. So far, the season has seen a mix of trends such as slip dressing, pastel hues, modern takes on the polo, updated denim and a minimalist style emerging in tandem from the luxury and contemporary markets.
Here, WWD rounds up the ever-expanding contemporary market’s offerings for the pre-fall season.
According to economist George Taylor’s hemline index theory, the length of women’s skirts and dresses can be indicative of the direction of financial markets. In theory, hemlines rise in times of economic prosperity and elongate when the economy slows.
“I’m feeling a sort of stripped down vibe,” Vince creative director Caroline Belhumeur said, “raising hemlines, not mini but just below the knee.” A subtle shift in silhouette, but meaningful, injecting newness into Belhumeur’s more austere offering for the season with cleaner shapes in her monochromatic matching sets, for example a pleated shirt with zip-up jacket over a textured T-shirt top or bralette. Knits are discreetly tactile, breathable and perfect for a summer outing or over her caramel leather pencil skirt. Color has been in the mix the past few seasons, shown here in a pastel violet sheer slipdress over satin. Sheer details are throughout, like on piping on a skirt, are little winks to a growing trend.
“When you change your hemline. All of a sudden your wardrobe adjusts because you look different with a coat on or you look different with a shirt or a sweater,” Belhumeur explained, underscoring how she builds a wardrobe for a client who wants more than just seasonal trends. “It’s a simple way of doing it for a customer without having to change everything.”
“We really focused on things feeling very natural and feminine. I got very inspired to paint prints that had interesting color combinations,” Tanya Taylor said during a walk-through of her elegant and artful pre-fall collection.
The designer took signature ideas and whipped them up as streamlined, transitional layers to carry through summer into the fall through a mix of neutral (sand, chalk, olive, deep sea green) and color pop (kiwi, shell pink, vibrant aqua) hues. For instance, knit dresses with new smocking details, hand-crochet color-pop inserts and soft lettuce edging; versatile linen jackets atop feminine dresses and skirt sets; a sleek color-blocked bias column gown; twisted shirting and chic polka-dot dressing in the form of a drop-waist dress or whipstitch lace-up top with matching trouser.
Whether looking for a relaxed yet elevated summer dress or transitional wardrobing (a la scuba-crepe draped dress or cotton boucle twin set), each look offered a refined take to Taylor’s signature femininity.
“We’re loosely calling it under the sea as a funny jump-off point, and it actually started as a funny way of coming together,” Lela Rose said of her pre-fall collection, which had a jumping-off point from visiting Coney Island’s iconic Mermaid Parade. The designer loves costume parties and themes, and was inspired to reinterpret the under-the-sea themes into a playful (but not overtly kitschy) lineup of pretty feminine fashions.
Aside from an adorable open-weave fisherman sweater with dangling fish charms, a soft painterly under-the-sea print (with fish, running water and coral) on sweet dresses, and trenchcoat with fish and striped “fish scale” embroideries, Rose rendered the inspiration lightly. For instance, a crushed plissé blue cocktail dress that mimicked undulating waves; “buried treasure” metallic beaded trousers; oversize blue and turquoise shell buttons on matching monochromatic tailored sets, and breezy sailor striped maxidresses.
Although an outlier to the overall theme, body-hugging knit dresses (a strapless tube dress with file coupe-inspired maxi florals or long-sleeve ivory ribbed number with slim open-stitch sleeve details) served as strong new ideas for the brand.
“We have here summer and pre-fall, which is the first time we’ve shifted the seasons a little bit. Summer is our classic traveling free-spirited girl — we had little bits of Capri, Saint-Tropez and Ibiza. We just opened our store in London so I was really inspired by those European girls and the jet-set vibe of being fresh off the beach, putting her hair up and throwing on a gown,” LoveShackFancy’s Rebecca Hessel Cohen said during a preview of her latest collections.
Summer exuded the brand’s quintessential feminine vibe with a nod to ‘90s and the 2000s with bias slip dressing (a standout ruffled “candy sparkle” midi dress or lace camisole with maxiskirt), summery knits (including new Alaïa-inspired jersey bodycon dresses), quintessential lace, floral, ikat and macramé beach-to-event wardrobing and, of course, flirty party attire (including a standout mermaid-esque netted gown and vintage-inspired minis).
The ideas nicely translated into pre-fall’s “golden hour,” dusty-toned assortment of Peruvian hand-knit sweaters and little cardigans paired with a variety of easy skirts (ranging from an airy tulle maxi to sweet ruffled minis), a strong black crochet pant with matching bra-top and romantic event dresses (a gold metallic lamé pleated gown). Overall, the collections exuded a romantic summer spirit with plenty of versatility from day to night.
Derek Lam 10 Crosby
“We were feeling for much a soft or subdued palette,” explained vice president of design Shawn Reddy, referencing the films of French New Wave film director Éric Rohmer. “Prints and things just felt like a little bit more easy, kind of this high summer romantic vibe.”
The nostalgic starting point translated into summery staples like an embroidered white tweed jacket, a wide mix of light wash jeans and dreamy floral dresses. Fabrics were airy, like a soft linen shirting seen on a pistachio hued dress with rosette detail. Suiting is loose, like a chambray wide-leg pant and double-breasted blazer with a sharp shoulder, perfect for a summer Friday at the office or a stroll through a park.
Youthful pieces with the pre-styled design twists the brand has imbued in it’s work since its beginning, their customer will find plenty of pieces to add newness from high summer into fall.
Tennis anyone? Adeam’s Hanako Maeda mused on the sport through the lens of her childhood summers spent in the resorts of Kawaguchiko. American preppy with her Japanese sensibilities, the hybridization produced a cardigan and pleated dress combo, oxford stripe shirtings layered with sheer striped fabric that became pleated summer dresses.
“Nineties prep is having a comeback with the Japanese youth,” Maeda said at an appointment in her Upper East Side studio. “It’s through the lens of the young Japanese people in like Tokyo and like Harajuku. They do a lot of layering and mix and match of different pieces. And a lot of the layering and also the more like oversize, off-kilter shapes.”
There was a crispness to her work, with interesting takes on the polo juxtaposed with a poplin button down and a grass green cotton dress with shoulder ruffle details or a wrinkle resistant technical fabric asymmetrical plaid skirt/top/jacket number. It was American sporty married to Maeda’s take on youthful Eastern style.
Cinq à Sept
“We hearkened to the romance and excitement of the 1920s and ‘30s while, of course, adding a bit of ‘70s, because that’s my thing. Really trying to evoke that romantic feeling,” Jane Siskin said of her latest collection for Cinq à Sept. The collection didn’t overtly lean into one era or the other (as it also incorporated moments of ’90s and 2000s nostalgia), but rather touched on references with a festive, feminine and glam spirit.
The clothing embraced the romantic spirit through new lightly ruffled and ruched vintage floral slip dressing (ranging from sweet babydolls to sweeping gowns) in pretty pastels while celebrating 1920s opulence with fun, party-worthy new embellishments. For instance, tailoring with cascading crystal fringe or jewelry-like crystal trims (as seen on a green three-piece suit) or standout sheer midi skirts and blouses emblazoned with crystal teardrops. Elsewhere, the designer continued to uplift her structured denim assortment with patchwork and corsetry details (best seen on a dark wash minidress) and peppered in on-trend cargo parachute pants to mix with her girly tops.
For the pre-fall season, Brooklyn, New York-based Merlette designer Marina Cortbawi looked to 1950s cinema and the contemporary paintings of Swedish artist Mamma Andersson for handcraft and romanticism — two pillars also key to her brand. To capture the collection with a more cinematic lens toward the “rhythms of daily life with beauty,” Cortbawi worked with filmmaker Carlotta Guerrero and creative director Roxane Danset.
“There’s a lot of textural elements in [Andersson’s] works, as well as realistic depictions of textiles. We took a lot from her in color palette and her Western elements, like the ikat-inspired landscapes. The other inspiration was the film “Giant” with Elizabeth Taylor and James Dean, really focusing on that power of the landscape, the mood, palette of blue sky and Taylor’s character as a muse.”
The collection lightly riffed on Western elements with ikat-inspired floral prints, debut denim and artisanal belts, chambray layers, hand-done soutache and contrast stitching details and tiered silhouettes derived from diamond patterned hand-smocking across her airy fashions while embracing the landscape’s palette with terracotta, off-white, chalk, khaki, Berber blue and deep pink hues. As always, the designer found new ways to tweak her thoughtful signature blouses and dresses with shirred paneling, pintucks and pleats, subtle asymmetrical neck and hemlines and more cinched waists while upping the ante in knitwear with the introduction of lightweight striped knit midi skirts and jumpers.
The summer season for L’Agence is all about versatility.
“There’s a reason for everything, and what we’ve found is that we know her better than her best friend, and more importantly, that we dress her for every occasion. From the minute you wake up until you go to sleep, there’s a story,” fashion director Tara Rudes Dan said of the brand’s latest collection. “Right now is the time to have fun in denim. Where we’ve built the client is, she’s looking for all the newness,” she added of the expanded assortment, which included Barbie pink styles, coated denim, new utility styles and more.
There’s wasn’t one specific narrative or theme, but rather a wide variety of easy-to-wear, elevated wardrobing that bridged casual day and officewear (loads of new denim with flattering camisoles and bestselling blouses; updated colorful suiting) and a mix of travel- and party-minded attire (ranging from a variety of slipdresses to shimmering jackets) with playful footwear to match.
Kate Spade New York
Freshly minted creative directors Tom Mora and Jennifer Lyu have found their footing at Kate Spade New York. Taking the reins in spring, the duo have firmly found their voice channeling the elegance mixed with playful kitch the brand is known for.
Their pre-fall is decidedly summer, with embellished lemons on a white T-shirt, paired with a lemon print A-line skirt. Wide navy strips, colorful floral prints — American summer staples — were seen on dresses and separates, like an off the shoulder floral print top with puff sleeves styled with a high-waisted striped wide-leg pant, the playfulness was on full display, but the real fun came from the accessories like shell shaped bags, stacked colorful bangles and printed bucket hats.
The duo have leaned into the charm and wit with the the unexpected pairing in styling and conversation-starting novelty accessories — fun, easily approachable pieces for summer’s most memorable occasions.
Christian Juul Nielsen’s Aknvas brand is growing, doing well at wholesale and landing on celebrities like Ariana Grande. Being in the mix at retail means his nascent brand now has pre-collection baked in as part of his deliveries. So, while this is his first pre-fall collection, Nielsen is delivering his trademark Scandinavian design with a firm summer bent. “I thought about what do you wear when it’s super hot in the city and you cannot wear anything. You just want to wear thin shirts,” he said of his mood. Thinner, breathable fabrications were the lynchpin to his work, like his tiered ruffle dress in neon, a style he has created before but here, it’s light and airy.
His work is super feminine, with sporty details and unexpected shapes, like a vegan leather black short dress with ruffle hem fused with a white T-shirt tank. Skin is in with crop top blazers paired with a wide-leg pant for a summer suit, a statement maker but not for the office. Knits are lighter too, but still with the nubby volume he has channeled in seasons past. Need an easy summer tote? His comes with ruffles and rope cascading down, a crafty take on the seasonless handbag staple.
Inspired by a trip to Hudson’s Dia Beacon contemporary art museum to see the large-scale architectural works of Richard Serra, creative director Christian Juul Nielsen injected his latest collection for Hervé Léger with intriguing dimension through organic lines and new fabric combinations.
“I thought there was something interesting about these feminine organic curves that swirl around the body and are strategically placed to emphasize the female shape,” he said of the elevated lineup, which incorporated a dense technical half milano, flat knit with silk georgette in the form of a tank dress in lieu of the brand’s signature bandage look. There was also a standout multilayered three-piece asymmetric black look that played to the inspiration with soft volumes.
Nielsen also upped the ante by mixing new fabrications into the lineup. “I think that’s where there’s space for the brand to grow,” he explained. “To do it dramatically feels a bit pointless, it’s more organic for me to little by little add more fabrics into the collection. We started last season with a few chiffon skirts, and now this season, we have a fitted compact knit that we drape taffeta around with a couture vibe. The same with the silk chiffon, which is draped around the hips,” he said of two standout blush pink minidresses. Elsewhere, the designer’s knits (both dresses and matching sets) boasted knitted mesh textures, curved cutouts, swirled motifs and sheer technical nylon panels with modern, graphic appeal.
Bright, sensual and beachy. If that is your summer spirit, A.L.C. has it in spades. Inspired by Positano, Italy, the designer Andrea Lieberman leaned in with vacation focused unfussy warm weather staples with crochet dresses, crop tops and white denim.
Lieberman’s relaxed Los Angeles DNA is right in step for a summer getaway with easy takes on evening dresses with a bandeau top with side cutout and full skirt, a crochet detail prairie dress in salmon or a playful take on mens sky blue shirting, with a short-sleeve button down, cropped with an elastic detail.
Swim is a new category for the brand and has grown significantly, with the seasonal prints ending up on rash guards, maillots and more. Throw it all in one of her oversize raffia bags and your summer vacation in Europe wardrobe is sorted.