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September 14, 2012updated Feb 20, 2013

Women’s Runway Report: The New Power Suit

By Chris Boyle

Prada / Rag & BoneMiu Miu / RochasParis, France – Reported by Jessica Michault for Elite Traveler, the private jet lifestyle magazine

This season the working woman’s most faithful fashion staple is getting a serious sartorial makeover. The pantsuit, the go-to choice for female politicians and first-time job interviewees alike, has been transformed for fall through the use of brightly colored prints worn head to toe.

“I always have a pantsuit in each of my collections,” said Albert Kriemler, the designer behind the family-owned brand Akris, which is celebrating its 90th anniversary this year. This time that pantsuit not only had pride of place as the first exit on the designer’s runway, it also came cut in a green, gray and black grid pattern that gave the conventional shape a geometric dynamism. Inspired by Franz Kline’s Painting No. 7, this pantsuit, from a brand known for its understated elegance, is proof positive that the fashion world was looking to update a classic. “I really wanted to make the look pop and start the show with a strong statement,” explained Kriemler.

There is no denying that wearing an entire outfit in a single bold print is an audacious move. But it is one that fashion designers have been building up to slowly. They have been preparing their customers step by step over the last few seasons to take on what is one of this fall’s strongest trends. The incremental introduction of hot house hues, color block outfits and finally the industry-wide use of strong, computer-generated prints limited only by a designer’s imagination have all contributed to readying fashion fans.

Although some brands like Rag & Bone and Paul & Joe used floral prints as the starting point for their ensembles, these pantsuits are not made for wallflowers. True fashionistas know that they should bypass the blooms for “wallpaper” prints that bring to mind the work of interior design legend David Hicks. His fascination with geometric design had a clear influence on a number of the top European fashion houses.

At Rochas, designer Marco Zanini came up with a swirling kaleidoscope of graphic prints inspired by the pottery of Swedish ceramicist Wilhelm Kage (which Zanini collects). But he used luxe fabrics like jacquards and silks to elevate the style. In the Versus collection, Donatella Versace gave her geometric patterns a mean-girl attitude that brought to mind the rough and tumble area of Camden in London.

There is no better indication of this trend’s strength than the fact that Miuccia Prada, for her signature brand and her Miu Miu line, and Marc Jacobs, for his Louis Vuitton collection, turned to op art “wallpaper” prints for their pantsuits. And a lot of pantsuits there were. For Prada the one-two punch of both her lines was the pantsuit. The Miu Miu collection, which showed pantsuits almost exclusively, was as strong a statement as the designer has ever made in recent fashion history.

Those who follow fashion closely might pick up on the fact that Prada’s collections were also reminiscent of the “ugly chic” style that she first introduced to the world in the 1990s. While this lent a slightly referential feel to her shows, the vibe was primarily hypnotic. By bombarding the audience with the same silhouette over and over, just varying the colors and prints, it felt like Prada was almost desensitizing the spectators to the power of her sartorial vision.

Jacobs echoed Prada’s aesthetic with a collection of cropped pantsuits whose elongated silhouettes were covered with enormous crystal embellishments. But while his motifs had a 1960s style to them, they also hinted at the turn-of-the-20th-century prints that were the original inspiration for those psychedelic patterns.

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It might be some time before Hillary Clinton or US senator Barbara Boxer feel comfortable slipping on one of these suits, but for a true fashion follower nothing beats making a bold entrance. Don these pantsuits, and you’ll never have to worry about being overlooked.

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