There’s an inherent feeling of opposition when it comes to black and white; lights versus dark, good versus evil, day versus night. It’s a wonder they’re ever in the same room together. But it’s this polarity that brings balance – they neutralise each other. While both all-white or all-black outfits can appear austere, edgy or cold, together they take on a softer guise. As Breton stripes, monochrome exudes Gallic chic; as gingham it feels pastoral and nostalgic; in the form of houndstooth, heritage vibes take the fore and as vertical stripes it oozes sporty cool – just think Adidas popper pants, not Beetlejuice.
Sometimes a trend like this can feel like fashion is trying to reinvent the wheel – but really, this is more like a new set of alloys. This season sees your classic horizontal stripes and raises you intricate patterns in stark monochrome. At Proenza Schouler (both SS17 and AW17), black and white appeared as Op Art blocks, Bauhaus bands and graphic prints. The effect was striking, and in the case of layers of cut-out squiggled fabric – like squashed mounds of silly string – it looked new. A monochrome knit dress from Chloé resembled oversized curb chain links or nautical knots; this was flanked by oversized sailor-style tailoring in crisp black and white.Chanel, ever the monochrome champion, took its iconic fantasy tweed and gave it a modish, nay, space-age update for SS17 and AW17. Softly checked bouclé suits were worn with go-go boots. Oh, and helmets that resembled Stormtrooper masks – but that’s probably a look best reserved for special occasions. Black and white suiting was seen at Céline and Ann Demeulemeester, but it was anything but boring – and don’t even begin to think Reservoir Dogs. Silhouettes were strict, details were modern and proportions were directional – think wide, cropped trousers, boxy jackets, oversized shirts, corsetry and asymmetry. Carolina Herrera stuck to the humble stripe – or should that be humbug? Vertical black and white stripes contoured ballerina-length dresses for a look that was part 1950s siren, part optical illusion.
"This season sees your classic horizontal stripes and raises you intricate patterns in stark monochrome."
It’s a trend that has taken to the streets. The style set have been spotted in flared tops and trousers in matching monochrome check; white piping snakes around black jumper dresses; flared trousers with leg-lengthening side stripes are paired with crisp white shirts; monochrome patterns are clashed. That’s part of the beauty of black and white – however many patterns and textures an outfit contains, however unusual the cut, it looks coordinated. Chic. Pulled together. The absence of colour lets you experiment. Want to wear tartan with leopard print? Sure! Polka dot with stripes? Why not! Heritage check with sporty go-faster stripes? Absolutely. What’s more, it’s the perfect foil to bold lips and colour pop accessories.
Monochrome magic in action.