The World Famous Wallpaper as seen at the Indochine Restaurant in New York City New York.
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Wallpaper is making a come back and fashion designers are taking notice.
Among other things, this spring could be known as the season when the term “fashion insider” takes on a new meaning. That’s insider as in interior, as in interior decoration. As in a print of a Baroque molding blooming out of the bodice of a striped Prada dress, or Rodarte’s collection of grainy faux-bois tops and skirts inspired in part by Stephen Shore’s photographs of 1970s suburban interiors.
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You could, perhaps, chalk this decorative direction up to the deep cracks in the icy wall of minimalism, which dominated fashion last fall. Clean lines and cold hues have given way to something lush and welcoming. Come inside, it’s warm in here.
Certainly young London designer Mary Katrantzou’s masterful dresses, made of fabrics digitally printed with images of fantastical rooms, are nothing if not inviting. After studying images from photographers Guy Bourdin and Helmut Newton, Ms. Katrantzou was inspired not by the models and their clothing, but by their decadent surroundings. “I thought instead of putting the woman in the room, why not put the room on the woman?” she said. So she dove headlong into a pile of Architectural Digests and World of Interiors from the ’70s and ’80s.
Her collection is easily Exhibit A of this trendlet. The print on a precisely tailored dress lures you into the midst of a well-appointed, hyperreal space where gumball-pink Louis Quinze chairs flank a gilt console and a picture window that reveals a garden beyond. Some frocks flutter with curtain-like hems and concertina folds, and molded and crystal-fringed miniskirts are cousins to the Victorian lampshade. Twenty-five of the latter were actually bought by stores. “We went through hell in production,” said Ms. Katrantzou. “But there are women out there who will be wearing them.”
Sporting those ensembles might be just a paint-chip sliver less challenging than wearing Hussein Chalayan’s famed table skirt of 2001. Yet, for the most part, wearing an interiors-inspired look isn’t difficult. It’s an entirely manageable and stylish hop from wall to dress when it comes to the multitude of wallpaper-style prints. Take the immediate appeal of the neat and ladylike dresses from Jonathan Saunders. Their fruity-hued prints hint at flocked floral wallcoverings. Some do more than hint. Designer Henry Holland plucked his decadently glamorous banana leaf print straight from the walls of iconic New York restaurant Indochine after picking up the tome marking its 25th anniversary, “Indochine Stories: Shaken, and Stirred.” And at Rochas, designer Marco Zanini’s endless parade of ornate florals may reference scarves but they undeniably began in the homewares department. Clearly he had the topic on the brain when he asked fabric mill Bucol to recreate a vintage 1930s wallpaper for his following collection.
What’s interesting is that the fashion world is giving wallpaper something of a second wind. “Wallpaper has been saturated in terms of interiors,” said set designer Stefan Beckman. “But I think now fashion designers are looking at those kinds of prints in different ways to reinterpret them.” Mr. Beckman stands squarely at the intersection of fashion and furniture having worked closely with Marc Jacobs on his elaborate runway environments for many seasons and on photo shoots with Karl Lagerfeld, whose historic mansion on Lake Champlain he decorated. “Most designers have a clear vision of things they like and dislike,” Mr. Beckman said. “Their personal spaces reflect that.” He reported that Mr. Jacobs, who is renovating his New York apartment, is currently jonesing for ’20s-era antiques. “I feel like there’s an appreciation, and a lot of designers can take and reinterpret their design in an interior space,” Mr. Beckman said of the two aesthetic disciplines.
Looking forward to fall, fashion’s obsession with furnishings continues to evolve. At Balenciaga, creative director Nicolas Ghesquière—whose refined eye has long been trained on the decorative arts— traded the Formica and Eames-inspired plastics of last fall’s collection for a vivid floral print, an idea that grew out of the vintage Pierre Frey wallpaper he used in the presentation of his print-centric pre-fall collection. Mr. Ghesquière emphasized the two-dimensionality of the stuff, and added a sharp modern twist, by backing the pieces in black. And if you look closely at the edges of the draped skirts, you’ll see a trompe l’oeil tearing away of the paper.
Elsewhere, Jil Sander designer Raf Simons conjured the work of furniture designer Jacques Adnet, creating architectural booties in Mr. Adnet’s signature black leather and metal. At Marni, geometric tile prints, which recall modern architecture, worked equally on both the actual flooring of the runway and the clothes that came down it. Meanwhile Jason Wu found inspiration for his clever Baroque sportif collection from Robert Polidori’s book of photographs documenting the 25-year restoration of Versailles, “Parcours Muséologique Revisité.” “You’d have modern equipment next to really traditional, beautiful décor,” said Mr. Wu. “It gave me a new take on Baroque, which is such a well-worn reference.”
But not all of the source material is so precious. Mr. Beckman points to Proenza Schouler’s updated Native American prints. “To me that’s definitely coming from an interior base, things that would normally be used for rugs and sofas,” he said. There’s certainly nothing overdone about the humble crocheted Afghan motifs that Christopher Kane used for his fall show.
Ultimately, it’s a porous border between the two worlds. To wit, Rick Owens designs beautiful furniture, and former Emanuel Ungaro designer Vincent Darré now devotes himself entirely to the same pursuit at his Parisian shop Maison Darré on Rue du Mont Thabor. Those examples are just the tip of the iceberg. “There is a literal connection in a way [between clothing and interiors],” said Ms. Katrantzou. “Both cover you and your body. They have the same qualities of perfecting you and making you quite comfortable.”