In Diane von Furstenberg’s spring fashion campaign video, Karlie Kloss wears a wrap dress in a clashing combination of miniature pink and green blossoms as she poses against an equally pattern-mad backdrop of hearts and flowers and cheetah spots. It’s a giddy mix for sure, but Ms. Kloss, the model-slash-entrepreneur-slash-New York University student, pulls it off with aplomb.
“This is me being me,” she says, fixing the camera with a challenging stare. “Now you be you.”
Not such a tall order, it seems, if you consider the wealth of fashion options this season, many aimed at women with magpie tendencies and an eye for pleasing dissonance, the kind expressed on spring runways in the form of crazily inventive, willfully chaotic juxtapositions of color, texture, pattern and shape.
There were every-which-way stripes and plaids at Marc Jacobs, artfully mismatched chiffons and brocades at Dries Van Noten, and a Gypsy mashup of swirling motifs at Gucci, where the designer Alessandro Michele set much of the tone for the season.
Spring’s joyful irreverence is as evident at Christopher Kane, whose multitoned skirt, a cataract of fringe, is combined on these pages with a caution-yellow Rosie Assoulin off-the-shoulder top; or at Rag & Bone, whose skinny latticework dress is improbably teamed here with a patchwork lace Derek Lam skirt trailing a wispy handkerchief hem.
A closer look at these and other unlikely pairings would seem to argue that the disruptive climate governing everything from politics to technology has infiltrated the world of style — and in particular, the wardrobes of those fashion indies, young or not so young, bent on upending the style world’s most hallowed conventions.
“The playfulness and eccentricity we’ve been seeing on the runways seems to be a response to a shift toward individual dressing,” said Rachael Wang, the fashion director of Allure. It underscores the point, Ms. Wang said, “that there are no longer hard and fast rules for what’s ‘in’ or ‘out.’” Instead, she said, “One can find justification for wearing almost anything.”
It’s a position staked out by fashion’s premier rule-breakers, designers like Mr. Michele, Miuccia Prada and Demna Gvasalia of Vetements and Balenciaga, each an ardent champion of an uncorked self-expression that can be charmingly eccentric, if not downright subversive.
Their madcap experiments with color, texture and form are a testament to the high spirits pervading fashion now. “Like a John Cage symphony or a Joseph Cornell collage,” the fashion scribe and Vogue contributor Lynn Yaeger writes in the recent Bergdorf Goodman style supplement, “these unlikely mélanges can really make the heart sing.”
There is nothing dour about a Stella McCartney dress, all swingy accordion pleats, shown here with an embroidered silk bomber by Opening Ceremony. Such colorful combinations offer a bracing antidote to the numbing predictability of normcore or the self-conscious rigors of minimalism.
Michelle Elie, a former model and the designer of Prim, a collection of jewelry and accessories, said she welcomes a more playful, apparently anarchic approach. “With what goes on in the world around us, and so little that we can control, such collections capture a moment of lightness,” she said.
There are plenty of precedents, certainly, some dating from the advent of hippies, who didn’t balk at combining multitiered prairie skirts with Army surplus field jackets, or circus-striped trousers with filmy Edwardian dressing gowns.
“I have been styling in this sense for years,” said Natalie Joos, a stylist, writer and photographer in New York. For a recent post on Tales of Endearment, her popular vintage-fashion blog, Ms. Joos dressed the model Xiao Wen Ju in a Cuisinart mix, sliding a varsity jacket over a floor-length sequined gown. In another instance, she dressed her in a screwball assortment of up-and-down and sideways stripes.
“I welcome this kind of whimsical fashion,” she said.
As for the latest purveyors of whimsy, J. W. Anderson, Simon Porte Jacquemus and the like: “They’re doing something new and unique and intelligent,” Ms. Joos said emphatically. “By all means let them.”