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Chic Checks

Monochrome magic

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CHIC CHECKS: The blackand-white collection from Louis Vuitton

The classic chic combination of black and white may upstage the usual bright hues of summer

When the current darling of British fashion Mary Katrantzou took to the ramp with her Fall/Winter 2013 collection at the London Fashion Week last weekend, the fashion hounds were in for a surprise. The princess of prints is known for her loyal relationship with colour. In her recent collection, it seemed as though Katrantzou was now having affair with blacks, greys and whites and has firmly turned her back on all things vibrant. This stark move reminded the industry that Katrantzou is also the mistress of shape and silhouette. A palette devoid of colour is often the best way for a designer to make a strong style statement. But you don't have to wait till next season to go monochromatic;it is also a trend that is very strong this season. This summer, bright hues will take a back seat. They say opposites attract, and in fashion black and white together just spell pure chic. 

For the classic Indian figure - we do tend to be pear-shaped - there some rules to wearing black and white. When layering black and white, keep the black on the outside, and when doing separates stick to black hues on the bottom. It will be more flattering and help you look more proportionate.

Marc Jacobs, Louis Vuitton, Diane Von Furstenberg and Dolce and Gabbana all showed collections which leaned very heavily towards monochromatic. Closer home Kallol Datta, Pankaj and Nidhi, AM:PM and Sabyasaschi's Spring/ Summer collection were all devoted to black and white. From saris to scarves, you can find an entire wardrobe in this colour combination this spring. Kallol has always had a strong inclination to monochromes but he says it was his "latent anger" that probably influenced him to do an entire black and white collection.

Fashion designers have a reason to feel the fury right now. First, retail is suffering. Look at all the promotions, sales and offers around - it is a sign that retail is scared. While everyone likes to say the recession is over, the truth is that many of us have learnt a lesson and are spending with care.

That could explain why designers are going black and white -- it is a safe bet, it works and does not date as much as colour. Marc Jacobs went for stripes and also showed many easy-to-wear pieces, reinforcing the feeling that designers are playing it safe. There was a retro '60s look to his tee-shirts, tunics, skirts and dresses. (He opted to show no trousers). What Marc shows in his line is often a good precursor to what is to come from Louis Vuitton. He is after all the creative director of the much loved French fashion house. For them it was all about geometry with checks dominating (inspired by Vuitton's signature Damier pattern). Shapes were boxy and there was lots of black and white. Inspired in part by the conceptual artist Daniel Buren and his work, "Les Deux Plateaux", a series of 260 columns of three different heights were arranged in a grid within the great courtyard of the Palais Royal in Paris. It was graphic, bold and sharp and nothing shows this off better than the simplicity black and white.
Fashion's current concentration on structured shape is another reason for the monochromatic moments. Androgyny has been around for a few seasons now and is currently peaking, though for designer Arjun Saluja the relationship between yin and yang is a continuing and constant journey. His women's wear has always had a touch of the masculine. His designs lend himself to this colour combination and it was prevalent in his Spring/Summer 2013 catwalk show.

If you delve into European costume history, you find black and white first entered the aristocratic woman's wardrobe when horse-riding became fashionable. This was the first time a lady's outfit was allowed to take some sartorial inputs from a gentleman's attire. It was in some ways the start of androgyny. In fact, many of fashion's most bold statements have been made with the straightforwardness of black and white. There is Christian Dior's New Look of 1947, and while Chanel's Little Black Jacket is so iconic - there have been exhibitions and a coffee table book dedicated to this design - you will see it is often teamed with white inners. Black and White was a combination that Gabrielle Chanel used again and again. "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, " she had said. Black and white have a clean yet bold feel which makes them perfect for 2013. We may be looking to make style statements but we also yearn for something that is classic and easy. Colour has a feel of celebration. Right now no-one is in the mood for excesses. And even fashion has had to acknowledge this.

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