Duochrome, surrealists and iconoclasts - are we still loving classic black and white?
Illustration: Getty Images
Since Coco Chanel hit that button, classic black and white has been on the jukebox, the question is, are we still dancing?
Fashion folk are gas, ‘the monochrome trend’ they call it, any variation of black and white, stripes, blocks, squiggles you name it. Think about it mono chrome, one colour! Black is monochrome, white is monochrome, black and white is duochrome. frockadvisor doesn’t mean to be pedantic but let’s use language with care. Coco Chanel said, ‘Women think of all colours except the absence of colour. I have said that black has it all. White too. Their beauty is absolute. It is the perfect harmony.’ And of course, she’s right. There is an intrinsic power in this pairing, bold and unapologetic for the advancement of drama.
When Coco made her proclamation, only men and mourning widows wore black and that is what was so rebellious about that wonderful self-made entrepreneur’s style edict. At this point in our sartorial torpor, however, black and white has become the path of least resistance, it’s easy, everything matches and feels both relatively safe and moderately chic.
The problem occurs when one comes to rely on the trick, and much like the increasing tolerance for both chilli and alcohol, the trick becomes progressively less, well, magic.
If you are abusing it, wearing it daily as a uniform, you have simply ceased to register. A senior HR manager in a large multi-national corporation once spoke to frockadvisor of the new graduate recruits as pan sexual ‘penguins’ all togged out in black suits with white shirts, being herded through the terrifying corridors of power with fear in their eyes. It’s like work-wear painting by numbers. Now, let’s think about this seasons offering, the nuance is in the combining of the two, this is what fashion is falsely and loudly calling Monochrome. From the delicacy of the Samsoe & Samsoe jumpsuit (we love a jumpsuit), at Elaine Curtis, through the subtlety of Aideen Bodkins Aztec print dress, right to the no holds barred stripiness of Michael Kors tote at House of Fraser, you wear your commitment as a badge of honour.
No longer is it enough to proclaim your brand credentials, it seems we must now become a walking billboard for our art of preference, iconoclast or pointillist? I’m not sure about this one. Just saying.
Don’t fall into the small-minded trap of thinking that fashion people aren’t broadly culturally aware with multiple inspirational touch-points (isn’t that the day of the day).
When one is inspired by Art, with a capital A, one must not whisper and abstract the visual from the source, one must loudly pin ones colours to the dress. This is about more than print; it’s about paint. Always a good two seasons ahead of everyone else, when Miuccia Prada does it and we all sit up. At first glance we tilt our heads in confusion, then, with uncanny skill on her part, after mere moments, we either think it’s been around forever or wonder why it hasn’t. Her cacophony of depictive female icons for SS14 teamed with footless sports socks and clumpy sandals tell a tale of an obsession with both Art and, bizarrely, gymnastics (which she performs every morning as her fitness ritual).