The Fashion Quarterly team trade in their usual work wardrobes to trial some of the trickiest trends of the season.
Sally-Ann Mullin, editor
Runway reference: Yeezy season 4
What would you wear on a normal day? Tailored pieces, leather, white shirting, and black suede point-front stilettos, always.
Why are you drawn to this aesthetic? The way I present myself allows me to feel assertive and sexy, yet still feminine.
Describe the runway look you were replicating and the items you used to recreate it. I was inspired by Yeezy, season 4. It was one of the most talked about collections of the year, not just because of the hype surrounding creative director Kanye West and his Kardashian-Jenner entourage, but due to the controversial showing at New York Fashion Week, where several models fainted after being forced to stand for hours in the sun. The specific look is a mix of figure-hugging, nude-hued pieces, camouflage elements and clear Perspex heels. The base of my outfit was a vintage Zambesi body-con dress which I altered, and the amazing Kate Jarrett from Loxy’s hair salon in Ponsonby gave me 24-inch, human hair extensions for the full Kim Kardashian effect.
Describe how your new look affected your day. Straight off the bat I felt different. I avoided my usual coffee haunt, not wanting to be snapped looking so overtly sexual in my local. This was ultimately the wrong decision as at my alternative choice of café, it was even more alarming to be around people I didn’t know. When I walked in and felt everyone staring at me, I panicked and bolted without ordering.
How did others react? I had a mixed response from my colleagues. Everyone under 25 seemed to love it, but those slightly older expressed distaste. To gauge the response of the general public I went for a walk at lunchtime. Men seemed to hold their gaze for longer than they usually would, and women just looked perplexed.
What did you struggle with? The attention! I enjoy being the centre of attention, always have, but this was next level. So many people were staring at me and I didn’t like it.
What did you learn about yourself? That I like to dress in a more subtle and elusive manner. The key, for me, is mixing up the elements of an outfit — if the hair is big and sexy, the clothes need to be more subdued. If there is cleavage, the skirt or pants can’t be totally fitted. Commanding attention is one thing, being ogled all day is quite another.
How will you be taking inspiration from this runway look going forward? I really loved wearing the Zambesi dress. I predict it will become a wardrobe staple but I’ll be teaming it with stilettos and a structured blazer. The jury is out as far as the clear heels are concerned. I appreciated the leg-lengthening effect but they felt a little too adult entertainment industry for me, so I’d perhaps tone them down with a simple white T-shirt, classic cut 501 jeans and a red lip. It was also fun to have hip-grazing hair. I have adored playing with the extra length, but I’ll be getting the girls at Loxy’s to trim it into a more manageable medium-long style.
Jess Thomson, fashion and editorial assistant
Runway reference: Gucci pre-fall 2017
What would you wear on a normal day? Simplistic garments that are fitted but not exposed, and make me look tall and linear. I prefer to dress for winter over summer as I love to wear baggy jumpers tucked into fitted skirts (a pencil skirt that finishes mid-shin is my go-to). I also wear skinny jeans (but never too tight!) and usually ankle-grazer length. I typically team these with a turtle-neck sweater, a black blazer or a long, camel coat, and a pair of point-front stilettos (it’s very rare that I won’t wear heels to work). I also recently jumped on the Gucci belt bandwagon, although unlike most of the ones currently doing the rounds, mine is vintage.
Why are you drawn to this aesthetic? A big part of it was seeing my mum dress like this when she was a bit younger. She used to work in advertising and always looked so glamorous. And it’s an aesthetic I feel comfortable in. I don’t need to think about it.
Describe the runway look you were replicating and the items you used to recreate it. Gucci pre-fall 2017. The look is bookish and awkward, with underlying op-shop vibes due to the quirky glasses, hats, and clashing prints and bright colours. I recreated the aesthetic with a vintage floral pussy-bow blouse, emerald green pleated skirt, and ballet flats worn with grey ankle socks. I accessorised with a black beret, glasses, and my Gucci belt which was basically my safety-blanket on the day.
Describe how your new look affected your day. After getting dressed for the day I would typically not give a second thought to how I look, but on this day it was all I could think about. I found myself not wanting to speak up in meetings because I was feeling so self-conscious, and that was quite confronting.
How did others react? Three colleagues that I sit with every single day completely failed to recognise me while I was out getting a coffee — they walked right past me and didn’t even realise I was there! The other popular reaction was just to laugh at me.
What did you struggle with? In so many different things that I would never normally wear together, I felt frumpy and completely out of my comfort zone. It was definitely a baptism by fire!
What did you learn about yourself? I learnt that I know what I like, and I think that’s a good thing. My style has always been very instinctual — I never have to overthink it when I’m getting dressed in the morning. Having said that, I learnt that trying something new makes you look at the world from a different angle, and that’s extremely important from time to time. It was also interesting to see how differently I was treated when I looked different.
How will you be taking inspiration from this runway look going forward? Although, overall, I didn’t really enjoy dressing this way, I can appreciate that some of the elements of my outfit would be really cool if they were split up, and styled in my own way. I would love to wear the beret with jeans, for example, and I would also enjoy the skirt — possibly even the bright green colour — if I could pair it with a thin, fitted jumper and black heels. It turns out pleated skirts aren’t as bad as I thought! In fact, I now have my eye on one from Kate Sylvester’s new season.
Phoebe Watt, features writer
Runway reference: Balenciaga spring/summer 2017
What would you wear on a normal day? As fashion-obsessed as I am, an adventurous dresser I am not. Most days you’ll find me in skinny jeans (black or indigo), a loosely tucked, button-down shirt (white or chambray), and black or nude stilettos. In winter, add a full-length, grey tweed coat, rinse and repeat. For events, a black ensemble is my default, and as a rule I’d rather be underdressed than overdressed, so will downplay a voluminous black pleated skirt with a grey marle T-shirt. To bring drama I rely on an immaculate beauty look and a piece of statement jewellery. A Dolce & Gabbana-inspired red lip and crucifix earring combo is my ultimate.
Why are you drawn to this aesthetic? I don’t consider myself a wallflower and I certainly don’t get dressed with the objective of blending in. But celebrity stylist and all-round fashion oracle, Rachel Zoe, famously said that style “is a way to say who you are without having to speak”, and I guess I don’t feel like my clothes should have to yell for people to listen.
Describe the runway look you were replicating and the items you used to recreate it. Extreme colour blocking à la Balenciaga spring/summer 2017. The particular look I was tasked with replicating consisted of a high-necked, long-sleeved candy pink dress with a thigh-high split, and vibrant purple tights that were worn over the top of the model’s stilettos. To recreate this look I chose a stunning fuchsia wrap dress by Miss Crabb, and a pair of opaque, grape-hued stockings which I pulled on over my shoes, snipping a tiny hole to poke the heel through (and creating some very slapstick CCTV footage in the process, I’m sure).
Describe how your new look affected your day. I felt very self-conscious. At midday I was absolutely dying for sushi, but I was willing to wait an excruciating half hour for someone else on the team to join me because I didn’t want to step one foot outside the building by myself — very unlike me. The bright colours, the funny stiletto/stocking hybrids, and the fact that the dress itself was quite formal just made me feel like a bit of a spectacle, which is not my sartorial happy place.
How did people react? Despite my own discomfort, the response from the FQ team was overwhelmingly positive. Everyone’s immediate reaction was that I should do colour more often, specifically fuchsia. Coming from some of the most stylish — and honest — people I know, it was feedback that I really took on board.
What did you struggle with? It sounds glib, but I just didn’t feel ‘cool’ in what I was wearing. I strive to look understated in a kind of nonchalant, Parisian way, and this outfit was the antithesis of that. I was obsessed with the dress and would happily wear it to a wedding, but on an ordinary work day? Too Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.
What did you learn about yourself? That I can wear colour, I just need to own it. On the flipside, when I slipped back into my denim cut-offs and a charcoal silk shirt at the end of the day, and my confidence levels instantly soared, I learnt that power-dressing comes in all shapes and forms.
How will you be taking inspiration from this runway look going forward? Wearing exclusively black to black-tie events ends now. I doubt I’ll be pairing a pink dress with purple stockings again, but a pink dress with a purple (or preferably red) stiletto? Bring it on. And I know the focus of this trend trial was colour blocking, but I’m just going to say it — I liked what was happening with my lower half. I can absolutely see myself fashioning those stocking-shoes in black (sorry not sorry), underneath a pleated mini in schoolgirl tartan or charcoal grey.
Bronwyn Williams, features and beauty editor
Runway reference: Kenzo spring/summer 2017
Describe your go-to beauty look: Although I’m constantly trialling new products and makeup techniques for work, there are a number of requirements when it comes to my daily makeup: It has to take less than 10 minutes. It has to involve as few steps as possible (for this reason, multi-use products make me very happy — lipstick as blush, bronzer as eyeshadow, brow pencil as eyeliner). Lastly, it has to look unfussy, undone and natural. Kardashian contours? Not so keen. False lashes? I prefer my own. Beauty blogger brows? Pass.
Why are you drawn to this aesthetic? I’m a firm believer in skincare as makeup, so in theory, the more I look after my skin, the less makeup I need to wear.
Describe the beauty look you were replicating and the items you used to recreate it. Kenzo spring/summer 2017. The beauty look, created by Lynsey Alexander, is a modern version of a makeup technique called ‘draping’. Popular in the 1980s (with a more subtle version trickling through to the ‘90s), draping is essentially contouring, but with blush. Intended to make you look flushed like you’re fresh off the dance floor, blusher is swept across and under the cheekbones, across the eyelids and often down the neck as well. The Kenzo team stepped it up a notch, using a bright red blush to match the tone of the models’ bold lacquered lips. Despite spending an evening squinting at YouTube tutorials, I felt that in order to get this look right I needed professional help, so I called in Gemma Robertson, pro-artist at Smashbox Cosmetics. The first layer of blush Gemma applied looked natural, pretty, and fashion-forward, and I liked the way it contoured my face differently to the classic bronzer/highlighter trick. I was ready to stop there, but we had to keep on layering.
Describe how your new look affected your day. I wrapped my makeup session and rushed straight into the middle of a meeting. Nine faces turned to look at me, and though I commend their attempts to act normal, I felt like a circus clown (our editor Sally-Ann kindly described the look as ‘very artsy’). Throughout the day I would momentarily forget what I looked like, but come lunchtime all eyes were on me when I walked along the street to grab a bite. I had a number of appointments that day where I was meeting people for the first time, so I was pleasantly surprised when they told me my makeup looked amazing. I guess I forgot that for some people, colourful, statement makeup is an everyday thing.
How did people react? I liken it to when you dye your hair from brunette to blonde; though you can’t put your finger on it, people do look at you, speak to you and treat you differently. Within the confines of our open plan and open-minded office, I felt fine. Out in the real world, however, I felt people staring, and mentally placing me into a societal ‘box’ that I feel I don’t belong in.
What did you struggle with? Being a ‘less is more’ sort of woman, I struggled physically wearing that much makeup.
How will you be taking inspiration from this runway look going forward? The experiment made me think more openly about the possible uses of blush. Rather than my usual wan dab on the apples of my cheeks, I’ll definitely be getting a little braver in my morning application, armed with the following tip from Gemma: “When it comes to choosing your blush, technically you can wear anything, but the real trick is matching it to the rest of your makeup. You want your blush and lipstick to be similar in tone to tie the look together.” Wish me luck!
*This article originally appeared in the Autumn 2017 issue of Fashion Quarterly.