Fashion houses are seeing spots this fall/winter, with a host of polka dotted designs dominating the catwalks.
After years of playing with patterns, with everything from paisley to manipulated digital images turning up on fabrics, designers are stepping away from the prints of seasons past. Advancements in computer technology have made it easy for designers to experiment with imagery—but sometimes the real challenge is not in unharnessed creativity, but rather making an impact within the constraints of controlled graphic elements. This is where the polka dot comes into play.
No one relished the style more so than Marc Jacobs, who did an about-face from the relaxed 1970s style of his summer collection to debut a much more austere silhouette that was covered in spots. They came out big and small, as accents on berets or stockings, or worn from head to toe as a print. They even showed up in 3D on a skirt covered with plastic cabochons.
Where Jacobs lead, many other designers followed. At Gucci, creative director Frida Giannini opted for the Pointillist style of white micro-dots on a black chiffon dress for a safer sartorial option. Others diluted the spotted effect by layering the pattern or offsetting it with stripes, as was the case on the Carlos Miele catwalk. Overall, the inclusion of polka dots was daring more often than not. Diane von Furstenberg affixed big, round fishnet dots on a floor-length gown, paired a white-spotted black suit with a bold top covered in black dots, and even sent out an electric blue maxi-dress covered in gold coinsized spots. Not to be outdone, Stella McCartney showed audacious attitude with a series of formfitting black dresses, sliced back on a curve down the sides of the body and finished off with different sized black dots on a sheer tulle base. Over at Lanvin, designer Alber Elbaz showcased an asymmetrical dress that elevated the demure polka dotted look from saccharine to sexy.
But the best use of the polka dot this season was by the young Georgian designer David Koma. A 2009 graduate of Central Saint Martins with a celebrity following that includes the likes of Beyoncé, Lady Gaga and Rihanna, Koma is one of fashion’s hottest new talents. With only two runway shows under his belt, he is creating quite a buzz in the industry—which is unsurprising, given the bold way he manipulated the powerful polka dot. Inspired by the work of Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama, the designer showed stretch matte black dresses covered in shiny black dots, cut round holes out of capes and used contrasting fabrics and dot sizes in panels along the front of pencil skirts.
Refreshingly, the latest influx of polka dotted designs are anything but retro. Rather, they point to an industry that’s boldly moving forward in a new decade, deftly carving out the shape of style to come.